US reacts to BBC documentary; Read more about the row

24 January, 2023 | Vaishali Sharma

PM World

"I'm not familiar with the documentary you're referring to, however, I am very familiar with the shared values that enact the US & India as two thriving and vibrant democracies," US state dept spok...

“I’m not familiar with the documentary you’re referring to, however, I am very familiar with the shared values that enact the United States and India as two thriving and vibrant democracies,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday, responding to a media query on a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi which has sparked controversy since its release.

Price stated during a news conference on Monday (local time) that there are various components that strengthen the US’ global strategic alliance with India, including political, economic, and particularly strong people-to-people ties.

 “I’m not familiar with the documentary you’re referring to. I am very familiar with the shared values that enact the United States and India as two thriving, vibrant democracies. When we have concerns about actions that are taken in India, we’ve voiced those we’ve had an occasion to do that,” he said.

Calling India’s democracy a vibrant one, he said “we look to everything that ties us together, and we look to reinforce all of those elements that tie us together,” as he underlined the diplomatic ties that US and India share with each other.

He also stressed the fact that the partnership that the US shares with India is exceptionally deep and that both nations share the values that are common to American democracy and to Indian democracy.

“I’m not aware of this documentary that you point to, but I will say broadly, is that there are a number of elements that undergird the global strategic partnership that we have with our Indian partners. There are close political ties, there are economic ties, there are exceptionally deep people-to-people ties between the United States and India. But one of those additional elements are the values that we share the values that are common to American democracy and to Indian democracy,” he added.

What is the documentary about?

The BBC, a British news agency, recently aired a documentary that sparked a big issue in India, igniting a political feud between the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress over the choice not to play it in the nation.

The BBC documentary, titled ‘India: The Modi Question,’ is a two-part video series that focuses on certain elements of the 2002 Gujarat riots, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state’s chief minister.

The BBC programme claimed to have studied specific aspects of the violent and terrible riots in Gujarat, which was ruled at the time by the Narendra Modi-led BJP administration.

The first episode of the documentary India: The Modi Question, which premiered on January 17, claimed that a British government-sent team discovered that Modi, then-chief minister of Gujarat, was “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to violence against Muslims. While the documentary has not yet been officially published in India, unauthorised versions have been making the rounds on social media sites.

Government’s Reaction

The BBC documentary has been rejected by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as a “propaganda piece” that lacks objectivity and shows a colonial attitude. The BBC did not make the documentary available in India, however it was available on YouTube for a while.

Later, multiple YouTube videos, sharing the first episode of the BBC documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’, were blocked on the direction of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, reports stated.

BJP leader Amit Malviya said, “Why should it matter what an external agency (BBC) has to say about an issue which has been settled at the highest court on our land? It (the documentary series) is a flawed and biased commentary of our country and people by a past coloniser, which has forgotten its own chequered history. They, of all people, should not be preaching us about the rule of law and human rights.”

Even in the United Kingdom, the documentary series generated indignation and derision. It was also deleted from a number of Indian social media networks.

The documentary sparked a row amid the leading and opposition parties.

Read: ‘Let them not preach us on rule of law’: BJP slams BBC, Opp members