The banned BBC documentary about the 2002 Gujarat riots will be screened in Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday evening, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled meetings with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. A group of legislators and human rights activists are organizing the screening.
BBC Documentary and Screening
The BBC documentary was banned in India for investigating the acts of its prime minister, Narendra Modi, during the deadly 2002 Gujarat riots two decades ago. Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, called the BBC documentary a “propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative.” “The bias, lack of objectivity, and frankly, a persistent colonial mindset are all blatantly visible,” he added.
Following the screening of the 40-minute video, there will be a panel discussion with Australian Greens senator Jordan Steele-John, Aakar Patel, former head of Amnesty India, and Aakashi Bhatt, daughter of retired IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt. Mr. Bhatt had previously accused PM Modi of directing officials not to intervene in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which killed over a thousand people, predominantly Muslims.
Modi, considered a hardcore Hindu nationalist by his detractors, was Gujarat’s chief minister during a three-month period of unrest. He has always rejected the claims, and the Indian court system eventually exonerated him. Official records show that 1,044 people were murdered during the riots, the bulk of them were Muslims but also included more than 250 Hindus. The riots were ignited by a train fire that killed 59 Hindu pilgrims.
According to an SBS News report on the upcoming event, Greens senator David Shoebridge criticized the documentary’s de facto prohibition in New Delhi. Shoebridge, who will attend the screening, called the video “extremely well-researched” and chastised New Delhi for its prohibition. “We’ve made it very clear that Australia has and should have a strong friendship with India, but that friendship should be one of truth,” he added.
‘India: The Modi Question’, a two-part BBC documentary, was based on a secret UK government assessment that alleged Modi, then Gujarat chief minister, had helped develop a climate of impunity during the 2002 riots. While the BBC did not run the documentary in India, the Indian government directed that some accounts that had uploaded links be removed. Using emergency powers to halt the program, Indian officials cited the BBC’s “lack of objectivity” as proof of a “continuing colonial mindset.”
India-Australia Bilateral ties
Modi’s visit coincides with the Albanese government’s efforts to strengthen ties with India, with the two countries negotiating the terms of a large free trade pact. Prime Minister Modi was welcomed by the Australian High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell, and other authorities upon his arrival in Sydney.
Prime Minister Modi highlighted his desire for more defence and security cooperation between Australia and India in an interview with local media, particularly in light of China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific area.
The destruction of Hindu temples in Australia was also brought to attention by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said that his counterpart, Anthony Albanese, has promised “strict action” against those responsible.