IAMC condemns India’s ban on BBC film on Modi’s complicity in Muslims killings; asks YouTube, Twitter to restore access
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington D.C. (January 24, 2023) – The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), a US-based nonprofit organization dedicated to social justice, peace and pluralism, has condemned the Indian Government for banning the BBC documentary, “India: The Modi Question,” which has exposed India’s Hindu supremacist prime minister Narendra Modi’s complicity in the mass killing of nearly 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat state in 2002.
The documentary ban is only the latest turn in India’s descent into authoritarianism during Modi’s nine-year rule which has seen unprecedented attacks on free speech and press freedom, the IAMC said in a statement released here on Tuesday.
“The Modi Administration has arrested and jailed journalists on unfounded terror charges. It has raided news organizations that are critical of its failures. It has censored critics of its handling of COVID-19. And now, it has shamelessly outright banned a BBC documentary from airing not just in India but across the world,” IAMC Executive Director Rasheed Ahmed said. “A country that censors criticism is no longer a democracy.”
Ahmed called upon the Indian Government to immediately revoke this ban and allow the documentary to be freely distributed in India. He also slammed Twitter and YouTube for removing references and links to the documentary under pressure from India.
“It is appalling that platforms touting their commitment to free speech should cave under pressure from an authoritarian government whose leaders have encouraged and incited mass violence against minorities,” Ahmed said. “It is especially shameful considering Twitter’s prior resistance to India’s censorship. IAMC calls on both YouTube and Twitter to immediately restore full access to “India: The Modi Question.”
Ahmed also condemned Twitter for blocking IAMC’s tweet in India that shared the link to the BBC documentary.
“India: The Modi Question” shares the results of a British government investigation into the anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002. The documentary found that Modi, who was then Gujarat’s chief minister, was “directly responsible” for the “climate of impunity” that enabled mass violence that had “all the hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing.”
The documentary quotes politicians and senior police officers, including Sanjiv Bhatt who is now in prison, as saying that Modi ordered the police to permit violence. Bhatt claimed that at a meeting he attended on the eve of the anti-Muslim violence, Modi ordered the police to stand down and “let Hindus vent their anger” against Muslims.
The BBC documentary also includes a video of Babu Bajrangi, a leader of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal, in which he clearly says that “It was [Modi’s] hand all the way… If he’d told the police to do differently,” the police could have stopped the violence as “they had full control.” Bajrangi was later convicted for orchestrating the killing of 97 Muslim men, women and children. In this video shot secretly, Bajrangi, who has been out on bail for nearly four years despite his conviction for mass murder, also claimed that Modi changed the judges presiding over his case three times to ensure his release.
“Modi’s complicity in the killings of Muslims has been known internationally,” Ahmed said. “That is why the United States and the United Kingdom both imposed visa bans against Modi for nine years.” Ahmed criticized the Indian Supreme Court for letting Modi off the hook last year, ignoring and suppressing decades’ worth of inculpatory evidence compiled by activist Teesta Setalvad and others. “The Supreme Court failed in its duty to prosecute Modi for presiding over the mass murder of Muslims in Gujarat.”