India: Modi govt’s war against a documentary film

The Indian government seemingly declared war against a documentary film titled ‘India: The Modi Question’ that examines Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in violence during 2002 Gujarat riots. Immediately after the release of the film on January 17 by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), it was blocked throughout India by invoking emergency laws. Subsequently Indian tax department officials raided the BBC office in New Delhi in an apparent move to bully the press.
“The overbroad powers of the Income Tax Department are repeatedly being weaponized to silence dissent. Last year, tax officials also raided the offices of a number of NGOs, including Oxfam India. These intimidatory acts, which undermine the right to freedom of expression in India, must end now,” Aakar Patel, Chair of Amnesty International India’s Board, said about the raid.
The film tracked Modi’s rise through the ranks of the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party and his appointment as chief minister of Gujarat. It also unearthed memos showing that Modi’s handling of the incidents in 2002 was criticized at the time by western diplomats and the British government. A particular government report found that the riots had “all the hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing”.
This tussle for ‘saving the image’ of PM Modi through bans and censorship comes amid an increasingly challenging environment for media and freedom of the press under his government, with independent journalists and media subjected to state and judicial harassment. India had scored its worst last year in the global press freedom index with the 150th position out of 180 countries.
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