India Tax authorities raid BBC broadcasters offices for critical documentary

India: Tax authorities raid BBC broadcaster’s offices for critical documentary

Indian tax authorities raided BBC offices in New Delhi on Tuesday, weeks after a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the bloody 2002 sectarian riots aired.

Police cordoned off the building in the center of the capital and half a dozen officers were posted outside the BBC’s offices – which span two floors – to prevent people from entering or leaving, an AFP journalist found.

“There is a tax raid on the offices, they confiscate all the phones,” said a BBC reporter in New Delhi.

“An official procedure is taking place in the department,” said an official on site, without revealing the name of his department.

Another BBC official in Bombay confirmed his office was also searched.

The Indian Income Tax Authority could not be immediately reached by AFP for comment.

The channel aired a two-part documentary in January that accused Mr Modi, when he was prime minister of the western state of Gujarat, of ordering police to ignore the 2002 interfaith riots.

This wave of violence killed at least 1,000 people, mostly members of the Muslim community, a minority in India.

The Indian government used emergency powers under IT laws to block videos and tweets directly related to the documentary.

Government adviser Kanchan Gupta called the documentary “enemy propaganda and anti-Indian scum” shortly after it aired.

Groups of students organized screenings of the documentary despite bans from their universities and defied government efforts to prevent its broadcast.

Police arrested around 20 students from the prestigious Delhi University after preventing a performance.

freedom of the press

Since Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist government came to power in 2014, India has fallen ten places in 2022 in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, falling to 150th place (out of 180).

Critical journalists, especially women, say they are the target of hate speech online.

The 2002 Gujarat riots broke out after 59 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a train fire.

31 Muslims had been convicted of criminal conspiracy and murder after this catastrophe.

The BBC documentary cites a previously classified UK Foreign Office report. The report, which relied on unnamed sources, claimed Mr Modi met with senior police officials and “ordered them not to intervene” in anti-Muslim violence perpetrated by Hindu nationalist groups.

This wave of violence was “politically motivated” with the aim of “cleansing Muslims from Hindu areas,” according to the UK Foreign Office report.

The “systematic campaign of violence has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing,” impossible “without the climate of impunity created by the state government (…) Narendra Modi is directly responsible,” the report concluded.

Mr Modi, who ruled Gujarat from 2001 until his election as prime minister in 2014, was briefly banned from entering the United States over the violence.

“There is no evidence that these attacks were inspired or abetted or abetted by Gujarat state ministers,” a 2019 commission of inquiry estimated.

The Supreme Court had already acquitted the current Prime Minister in 2012 after a previous investigation.