Home Politics The BBC Documentary Review: Modi, History, and the Present

The BBC Documentary Review: Modi, History, and the Present

The BBC’s two-part series is based on an unpublished report by the British Foreign Office. The emergency censorship of the documentary is being done to hide how the Muslim minority has been treated in India by the ruling party. Majoritarian legislative decisions are equally indicative of the changing nature of the democratic state of India.


“History can neither be distorted nor muffled”.

Mr. Modi, the present Prime Minister of India, has been trailed by the Gujarat riots for the past two decades. As a result of the release of a BBC documentary series purporting to examine Mr. Modi’s role in the riots of 2002, he is currently the subject of international debate.

A two-part BBC documentary titled India: The Modi Question claims to have examined the specifics of the riots that took place in Gujarat in 2002 while Modi was the chief minister. And this truth-based documentary let the cat out of the bag about his performance there. The BBC has come under fire the day after the documentary had been released.

The series was, however, not well received by Twitter users.

One user said “BBC, Rishi Sunak, do one good with a 4-10 episode series. Title: ‘UK: The Churchill Question’. Highlighting the Bengal famine of 1943, the story of a region in India (leave alone the country/other colonies) where millions perished by direct and documented orders, no speculation there”.

“Keep it coming. The more nonsense they spew, the more we will convince fence sitters to vote for Modi to keep foreigners & their ulterior motives at bay”. Another user wrote.

More than 300 eminent citizens of the country have written an open letter to Britain’s state-sponsored broadcaster and denounced the series. The panel of eminent citizens, which called out BBC for coming up with a fake narrative to discredit PM Modi, includes 13 retired Judges, scores of bureaucrats, and more than 150 retired Armed Forces officers.

The 302 signatories to the letter, took strong objection to agenda-based documentary and said that it reeked of a colonial & imperial mindset and was laced with ulterior motives.

“Part of the purpose of the series seems to be to influence pockets of the urban population in India in relation to the upcoming 2024 elections”. British Indian, Adit Kothari, founding member of the Indic society, told The Times of India.

Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson from India’s ministry of external affairs, said that the documentary is a propaganda piece, designed to push a particular discredited narrative. “Bias, lack of objectivity, and continual colonial mindset are blatantly visible”.

Of all the criticisms, the argument of the Ministry of External Affairs is the most fallacious and groundless. But yes there is a bias in the series and that is Modi’s anti-Muslim mindset.

How the narrative of this documentary series is propaganda and what kind of colonialism is visible?

Didn’t riots take place in 2002? Were not more than a thousand people killed in the riots?  Wasn’t Best Bakery burnt down? Wasn’t Bilqis Bano raped and her family killed? Wasn’t there a massacre in Narodagam and Narodapatia? Were not Ehsan Jafri along with 68 others killed in the Gulbarg society massacre that took place the day after the Godhra tragedy? Was Haren Pandya, former Gujarat Home minister not intentionally murdered? And wasn’t the Chief Minister of that time accused of bias by his own officers?

We cannot move toward the future without having an eye on the past. Apart from the Gujarat episode, we also have the Delhi carnage of 2022 in our sight. 

In 2020, BBC investigated the Delhi riots and said it found evidence that the Delhi police “acted alongside Hindu riots” – reportage that was later described as “biased” by several groups. Jamie Angus, director of BBC World Services told at the time that the BBC was not representing any agenda.

“We’ve reported fairly and accurately based on news gathering teams on the ground and what they have found,” he said.

Behalf of these questions and grounds, the MEA’s argument is baseless.

So let’s know what’s there in this series.

As this series has not been screened in India, nor it is accessible to Indian viewers on the BBC’s site. What has been revealed about it from BBC and external sources is limited.  According to it, the Gujarat 2002 riots have been ‘investigated’.

One aspect of the investigation is whether Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat Chief Minister, really failed to stop the riots and take action against the rioters, and if so, why did he fail?

The BBC itself wrote about the series, “Narendra Modi is the leader of the world’s largest democracy, a man who was twice elected as the Prime Minister of India and is considered the most powerful politician of his generation.” He is seen as a bulwark against Chinese hegemony in Asia. Both the United States and the United Kingdom consider him their weighty ally. But Narendra Modi’s government has been under constant fire for its attitude toward the country’s Muslim population. The series investigates the veracity of these allegations, examines Modi’s past, and questions his politics toward India’s largest religious minority.

The first part of the documentary has been aired on January 24th, 2023, traces Modi’s early forays into politics, including his rise from the right-wing Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and his state of Gujarat, where his response to the riots has led to controversy, becoming the Chief Minister, included.”  The second part is due to be broadcast on January 24th

In the second part, since 2019, the behavior of the Modi government toward Muslims will be reviewed. That means it will probe the removal of Article 370 from Kashmir, the controversial citizenship law, and violent attacks on Muslims.

The BBC says that the Modi government has repeatedly claimed that its policies are not anti-Muslim, but these policies have been heavily criticized by global human rights organizations such as Amnesty International. Amnesty International has now closed its office in India after its bank account was frozen by the Indian government. The Government of India has accused them of financial irregularities, which they have denied.

The BBC’s two-part series is based on an unpublished report by the British Foreign Office. According to sources mentioned in the documentary, Modi himself was responsible for the atmosphere of violence that had been created in Gujarat in 2002.

This report was compiled on the instructions of the then British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw. According to the BBC, the report stated that “the violence was much larger than reported” and that “the riots were aimed at cleansing Hindu areas of Muslims.” When Jack Straw was asked what action the British government could have taken at that time, he said, “There were limited options. We were never going to break diplomatic relations with India, but obviously, it was a black spot on Mr. Modi’s reputation undoubtedly.

Since the 2002 Gujarat riots have always been a sensitive subject for PM Modi, whenever they are mentioned, the entire government missionary stands up in PM’s defense. At this time, India-based British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has come out in defense of PM Modi. 

“The UK government’s position on that is clear and long-standing, and it has not changed,’’ Sunak responded. He said, “Of course, we do not tolerate persecution anywhere, but I am not sure that I agree at all with the characterisation that the hon. Gentleman has put forward.’’

If we talk about the Gujarat riots, the allegation continues to be made that Mr. Modi gave a ‘free pass’ to the rioters and did not allow any action against anyone, and those who were acted upon were later spared. Such as Bilqis Bano’s Eleven rapists.

IPS RB Sreekumar is currently imprisoned because he has penned down the reality of the Gujarat riots in his book “Gujrat Behind the curtain”. During the riots, he was the head of the Secret Service, his rank was the Director General of Police.

In the first chapter of the book, ‘Background of Gujarat Riots’, Sreekumar details the planning of the riots.  In the second chapter, ‘Age of Trouble and Despair’, he mentions the Godhra train tragedy and riots in detail. 

Another IPS officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, who is also currently incarcerated, filed a formal ‘affidavit’. It is given that he was present in the meeting in which the policemen were prevented from taking action against the rioters.

The testimonies of the above two senior police personnel are enough to direct us toward the truth.

The BJP government drew heavy criticism for its disdain in containing the organized massacre against the Muslim minority.

But as we know, The Indian government has issued orders to Twitter to block over 50 tweets linking to the video of the documentary. Moreover, directions to block the clips from being shared have been issued using emergency powers available to the government under the country’s IT rules 2021. 

Twitter broadcast a mail to those 50+ users, in the interest of transparency, we are writing to inform you that Twitter has received a request from the Indian government regarding your uploaded content violating the local laws of India.

Questions such as, what are the local laws of India? Why the government has issued censorship orders if they are not culprits of wrongdoings? Why is the government blocking accounts and tweets if they are on the right side? What’s really propaganda?

It blatantly seems like this emergency censorship is being done to hide how the Muslim minority has been treated in India by the ruling party. Majoritarian legislative decisions are equally indicative of the changing nature of the democratic state of India.