The BBC documentary includes the findings of a UK inquiry into the deadly 2002 riots, revealing PM Modi failed to stop the violence.
India’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday dismissed a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi that questioned his leadership during Gujarat’s deadly riots in 2002 as “propaganda”.
Modi was prime minister of the western state of Gujarat when it was hit by communal unrest that killed more than 1,000 people – most of them Muslims. The violence erupted after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire, killing 59 people.
The British Inquiry report shown in the documentary describes the events as a “systematic campaign of violence” that has “all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing” and blames Modi directly.
For me, the most revealing and damaging part of the BBC documentary is former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw speaking for the first time on record about finding his own officials in Gujarat during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom pic.twitter.com/i8asr4wA5h
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) January 19, 2023
The UK government report was never released until revealed in the documentary.
According to the documentary released on Tuesday, the investigative team claimed Modi prevented police from stopping anti-Muslim anti-Muslim violence, citing sources as saying Modi specifically ordered authorities not to intervene.
Modi denied the allegations and was exonerated in 2012 after an investigation by India’s top court. Another petition questioning his discharge was dismissed last year.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi called the BBC documentary a “propaganda piece” designed to promote a “discredited narrative” and said a “bias”, “lack of objectivity” and “persistent colonial thinking” were “manifest”. visible”.
“We wonder about the purpose of this exercise and the agenda behind it, and we do not wish to acknowledge such efforts,” he told a news conference.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters in Gujarat state [File: Amit Dave/Reuters]
Solicited for comment, the BBC said the documentary had been “rigorously researched” and contained a “wide range” of voices and opinions, including responses from people in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“We have offered the Indian government the right to respond to the issues raised in the series – they declined to respond,” said a BBC spokesman.
The documentary also features a former top British diplomat who says the violence was planned by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) – a subsidiary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization. Modi joined the RSS at a young age in his home state of Gujarat.
The VHP “could not have done so much damage without the climate of impunity created by the state government,” according to the investigative team.
Jack Straw, who was UK Foreign Secretary at the time of the violence, was also interviewed in the documentary and said the allegations against Modi had undermined his reputation.
“These were very serious allegations – that Prime Minister Modi has played a fairly active role in withdrawing the police and quietly encouraging Hindu extremists,” Straw said. “That was a particularly egregious example.”
“We launched an investigation and sent a team to Gujarat to find out for ourselves what happened. And they made a very thorough report,” he added.
The report also claimed that widespread rape of Muslim women occurred during the 2002 violence. It added that the aim of the riots was to “cleanse Muslims from Hindu areas” – something critics now say has become state policy as part of the BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda.
Under Modi, whose party has been in power since 2014, Muslims in India have consistently faced violence, lynching and blatant, often politically motivated, discrimination.
Hindu racist groups and supporters of the ruling BJP have also made calls for the country to be turned into an exclusive Hindu state.
Systematic, state-sponsored discrimination against Muslims includes laws banning the hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women, in certain parts of the country. Other controversial laws passed over the years include the Citizenship Amendment Act, which grants citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from neighboring countries.
The BBC showed in its documentary that according to the British Inquiry Report, “reconciliation will be impossible” as long as Modi remains in power.