Protests raged outside the BBC’s New Broadcasting House yesterday over the controversial Narendra Modi documentary that Indian free speech activists are trying to have reinstated on social media.

Large crowds from Britain’s Indian diaspora community gathered outside the BBC HQ in London on Sunday, who had been angered by the portrayal of the Indian leader and his relationship with the nation’s Muslim minority in the documentary recently released titled India: The Modi Question.

Meanwhile, India’s Supreme Court will next week consider petitions against the government order that demands clips of the show be removed from Twitter and YouTube, Reuters reports. Two lawyers have taken out petitions against the move and they will be heard in the next few days.

The doc, which the BBC has defended as being “rigorously researched,” takes a look at how the leader of the world’s largest democracy has had his presidency dogged by allegations about the attitude of his government towards India’s minority Muslim population. Episode one begins with Modi’s first steps into politics and two moves to Modi’s track record with the Muslim minority following re-election in 2019.

The Indian government has taken particular umbrage with coverage of Modi’s management of riots when he was Chief Minister in Gujurat in 2002  when a suspected Muslim mob set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. The incident sparked one of the worst outbreaks of religious bloodshed in independent India and Modi has been accused of failing to do enough to stop the riots. He was exonerated by a Supreme Court inquiry in 2012 and a petition questioning his exoneration was dismissed last year.

Kanchan Gupta, Senior Adviser at the Indian government’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, has called the documentary “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage.”

The latest developments come a few days after self-professed free speech fanatic Elon Musk’s Twitter bowed to pressure and banned the sharing of all footage of the doc on Twitter, while the Indian government has imposed a similar ban pertaining to YouTube. Both platforms quickly complied with the government’s censorship requests and posts on about 50 Twitter accounts were removed, which has led to criticism of Musk – a man who has repeatedly stressed his pro-free speech credentials and recently lifted Donald Trump’s Twitter ban.

The BBC has said the documentary was “rigorously researched” and involved a wide range of voices and opinions, including responses from people in Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.


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