Politicians are much the same the world over. They hate criticism. But in countries with robust freedom of speech and a free press, like the United States, politicians find it difficult to shut down criticism of them.
Not so in India, where Prime Minister Modi and his allies are working hard to keep people from seeing a BBC documentary, "India: the Modi Question."
TWITTER AND YOUTUBE censored a report critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in coordination with the government of India, according to a top Indian official. Officials called for the Big Tech companies to take action against a BBC documentary exploring Modi’s role in a genocidal 2002 massacre in the Indian state of Gujarat, which the officials deemed a “propaganda piece.”
In a series of posts, Kanchan Gupta, senior adviser at the Indian government’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, denounced the BBC documentary as “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage.” He said that both Twitter and YouTube had been ordered to block links to the film, before adding that the platforms “have complied with the directions.” Gupta’s statements coincided with posts from Twitter users in India who claimed to have shared links to the documentary but whose posts were later removed and replaced with a legal notice.
...The Gujarat riots, as the violence is sometimes known, occurred in 2002, when Modi was the chief minister of the state. A group of militants aligned with the Hindu nationalist movement, which encompasses Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, launched a violent campaign against local Muslims. Modi, who has been accused of personally encouraging the violence, reportedly told police forces to stand down in the face of the ongoing violence, which killed about 1,000 people.
“The documentary has unnerved Mr. Modi as he continues to evade accountability for his complicity in the violence,” Naik, the journalist, said. “He sees the documentary as a threat to his image internationally and has launched an unprecedented crackdown in India.”
Of course, when the Indian government tells people not to watch the documentary, that's tremendous free advertising for it.
I haven't watched the documentary yet. It's difficult to find it online without paying for a subscription to some video/movie service. The best source I could find was the IslamiCity web site, which says it provides "a non-sectarian, comprehensive and holistic view of Islam and Muslims."
The BBC is a respected organization, so my bet is that the documentary mostly, if not totally, tells the truth about the Gujarat violence and Modi's subsequent embracing of extreme Hindu nationalism.
Courageous people in India are screening the documentary despite the government's threats against those who do this. It's really disturbing that police in riot gear were sent to a university in advance of a planned screening.
If Modi thinks the documentary is untrue or unfair to him, he could have commented on it prior to its release, as the BBC requested. But he didn't do this, which indicates to me that Modi just doesn't like the truth being revealed about his role in the Gujarat killings.
This episode puts Modi, and India, in a bad light. A Washington Post story is scathing. Here's excerpts from "Censorship, arrests, power cuts. India scrambles to block BBC documentary."
NEW DELHI — The film had already been banned, the social media posts censored. Now, the students huddled without light or electricity around glowing smartphones to watch what their government had deemed to be subversive foreign propaganda.
China? No. They were in India, ostensibly the world’s largest democracy, and watching the BBC.
The Indian government over the past week has embarked on an extraordinary campaign to prevent its citizens from viewing a new documentary by the British broadcaster that explores Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in a deadly 2002 riot that saw more than 1,000 people — mostly Muslims — killed.
Indian officials, invoking emergency powers, ordered clips from the documentary to be censored on social media platforms including YouTube and Twitter. The Foreign Ministry spokesman lambasted the BBC production as a “propaganda piece” made with a “colonial mind-set.” One junior minister from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declared that watching the film amounted to “treason.”
On Tuesday evening, authorities cut electricity to the student union hall at New Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in an attempt to prevent the film being screened — a move that only provoked defiant students around the country to try to host more viewings.
...All told, the remarkable steps taken by the government seemed to reinforce a central point of the BBC series: that the world’s largest democracy was sliding into authoritarianism under Modi, who rose to national power in 2014 and won reelection in 2019 on a Hindu nationalist platform.
Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia Pacific policy director of the digital rights group Access Now, said the episode should “give more attention” to the “dangerous situation” of eroding civil liberties in India. The government has become “far more efficient and aggressive” in blocking content during moments of national political controversy, he said.
“How is it acceptable for India, as a democracy, to be ordering such a large amount of web censorship in the country?” Chima said. “You have to look at this incident as part of a cumulative wave of censorship.”