In a protest against United Kingdom’s national broadcaster, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) over its propaganda documentary on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a total 302 signatories eminent citizens have written an open letter. Among them are 13 retired Judges, 133 retired Bureaucrats including 33 Ambassadors and 156 retired Armed forces officers.
Calling it ‘Delusions of British Imperial Resurrection’, they warned “Not this time. Not with our leader. Not with India. Never on our watch!”
“Yet again, the staple, dyed-in-the-wool negativity and unrelenting prejudice of the BBC toward India has resurfaced as a documentary, “India: The Modi Question”. This production, the BBC claims, has been “rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards”, and “examines the tensions between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority and explores the politics of India’s PM Narendra Modi in relation to those tensions” and “a series of controversial policies” implemented by him. So now we have the archetype of British past imperialism in India setting itself up as both judge and jury, to resurrect Hindu-Muslim tensions that were overwhelmingly the creation of the British Raj policy of divide and rule,” they write.
They further write, “Not only is the BBC series, judging from what we have seen of it so far, based on delusional and evidently lopsided reporting, but it presumes to question the very basis of the 75-year-old edifice of India’s existence as an independent, democratic nation, a nation which functions according to the will of the people of India. Glaring factual errors apart, the series – which uses the words ‘allegedly’ and ‘reportedly’ repeatedly, (not ‘factually’) – reeks of motivated distortion that is as mind-numbingly unsubstantiated as it is nefarious. This is demonstrated most vividly by its completely sidelining the core fact: that the apex judicial institution of India, the Supreme Court of India, has unambiguously ruled out any role of Shri. Modi in the Gujarat violence of 2002, while firmly rejecting allegations of complicity and inaction by the then Gujarat State government headed by Chief Minister Modi. In an extensive, 452 page judgement, the Supreme Court had upheld the closure report filed by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) after years of painstaking investigation of the Gujarat riots. It had further unequivocally dismissed allegations made against Mr. Modi and others on the basis of the “ultra-sensational revelations” made by police officers R.B. Sreekumar, Sanjiv Bhatt, and by Haren Pandya, in order to, in the words of the Court, sensationalise and politicize the matters in issue, although replete with falsehood.”
“So now we have a ritish media organization, the BBC, which naturally thrives on sensationalism regardless of how false its basis, setting itself up to second guess and dismiss the verdict of the apex of the Indian judiciary, the Supreme Court. This alone exposes the BBC’s malafides, and leads one to question the motivations behind this series. Then again, there is nothing in the so-called British Foreign Office document – said to be based on a report from their High Commission in New Delhi, which was in turn said to be based on a report by their diplomat who visited Gujarat in 2002 – that had not been earlier alleged by any number of media reports and commentaries in India in the years following 2002, apart from the allegations made by Sreekumar, Bhatt and Pandya. All these allegations have been painstakingly dissected and dismissed by the Supreme Court of India. So now this resurrected accusation – contradicting the Supreme Court verdict – has to be believed only because a British media outlet has made it? As for glaring factual errors, which cannot but seem motivated, take The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which the BBC refers to as being ‘unfair to Muslims.’ It is in fact, a law to help minorities (Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Jains) facing religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh gain accelerated Indian citizenship. It has NOTHING to do with Indian Muslims; there is not a word about Muslims in the text of the Act. Has the BBC read the text of the CAA at all before making this blatantly false accusation?,” letter reads.
“Further, Prime Minister Modi’s active engagement with every Indian citizen, be it in housing or health or education, is only worthy of approbation and emulation. As an example, the world’s largest food assistance programme during the Covid-19 pandemic years – for over 800 million people, more than the combined population of the US and the EU – was accessible to all, irrespective of their faith. The facts speak for themselves. Similarly, Article 370 was a temporary provision of the Constitution of India, never meant to be permanent. Thus, its removal was in no manner a violation of constitutional norms. Today there is greater accountability and transparency as the UT governments of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh implement policies that benefit all the people of the region irrespective of their religion. The only Muslim-specific measure introduced by PM Modi is meant to protect and empower Muslim women. By introducing a law which prohibits the pernicious system of ‘Triple Talaq’, PM Modi has sought to ensure that the dignity, the self-respect, and the financial security of our Muslim sisters is uncompromised,” letter further reads.
They write, “The BBC underestimates one thing: the passionate patriotism towards the nation that connects all Indians across the globe. When it comes to our motherland, we Indians stand united. United in principle, and without bias against any of our own. The series claims to examine policies “in the context of rising tensions in India. Not only is this a serious waste of the audience’s time, patience and intelligence, it actually calls into question BBC’s own journalistic and ethical principles. Like a fellow Indian said, they would serve journalism better by running a series on the Bengal Famine called “UK: The Churchill Question “ This documentary is not a neutral critique, it is not about exercising creative freedom, itis not even about a divergent, anti-establishment point of view. It is in fact a visibly motivated charge sheet against our leader, a fellow Indian and a patriot. Regardless of whom you, as an individual Indian, might have voted for, the Prime Minister of India is the Prime Minister of your country, our country. We cannot allow just about anyone to run amok with their deliberate bias, their vacuous reasoning hiding behind phrases like “it was widely reported” or that there were pretty credible reports.”
“We need to make our voices heard. It is time to let the BBC know that India does not need colonial, imperialistic, somnambulistic outsiders, whose primary claim to fame has been ‘divide and rule’ under the British Raj, to teach us how to live together in (, not with) unity. Inclusion is inherent in India. Instead of making a documentary titled, “India: The Modi Question”, the BBC should begin by questioning their own bias against Prime Minister Modi (yes, their own too) and make a documentary called, “BBC: The Ethical Question,” the letter reads.