In response to a question given by a Pakistani journalist about a recently shown BBC documentary about the riots in Gujarat in 2002, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price stated that the United States was not familiar with the documentary.
The documentary entitled ‘India: The Modi Question’ focuses on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his state’s response to the Gujarat riots of 2002. India had labelled the documentary a “propaganda work” intended to promote a “disproven narrative.”
Monday during a news briefing in Washington, Ned Price told reporters that the United States has an “exceptionally deep alliance” with New Delhi based on shared democratic values.
“I’m not aware with the BBC documentary you’re referring to (about the 2002 Gujarat riots). According to PTI, he was reported as stating, “I am extremely aware with the shared ideals that unite the United States and India as two strong, dynamic democracies.”
“There are a variety of things that support the worldwide strategic alliance that we have with our Indian partners,” I will remark. Close political links exist. There are commercial ties. People-to-people ties between the United States and India are particularly strong,” he continued as the Biden administration distanced itself from the British documentary.
The documentary highlighted the violence, including the assassination of three British nationals and the alleged murder of former state minister Haren Pandya, and featured an interview with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who served from 2001 to 2006.
Straw claims in the documentary that, at the time, the British government had launched an investigation and dispatched a team to Gujarat to investigate the riots. According to the documentary, the team created a “very detailed study” that blamed the then-Modi government for the violence against minority groups.
Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson for the External Affairs Ministry, criticised the documentary last week, stating, “The bias, lack of objectivity, and persisting colonial attitude are obviously apparent.”
In fact, the video was released months after the Supreme Court accepted the conclusions of the Special Investigation Team it had constituted, which concluded that there was no “larger plot” behind the Gujarat riots in 2002. The Supreme Court rejected Zakia Jafri’s appeal challenging the SIT’s clean bill of health for Modi and others in riot-related matters.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting ordered YouTube and Twitter to remove links to the BBC documentary last week. Several notable figures, including Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien, Hollywood actor John Cusack, and senior attorney Prashant Bhushan, had posted links to the documentary.
The order was issued pursuant to the emergency provisions of the Information Technology Rules, 2021, for allegedly casting “doubts on the authority and credibility of the Supreme Court of India, sowing divisions among various communities, and making unsubstantiated allegations regarding the actions of foreign governments in India.”
However, student and youth organisations in Kerala have chosen to exhibit the film on campuses and in public locations around the state. The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union in Delhi distributed a flyer inviting students to a screening of the documentary in the union’s office, prompting the JNU administration to prohibit the screening.
Last Saturday, the controversial piece was screened at a commercial centre on the north campus of the University of Hyderabad in Hyderabad, sparking uproar.
While UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak backed PM Modi, stating that he disagreed with the BBC program’s “characterization” of his Indian counterpart, a US State Department official stated that the United States is unfamiliar with the documentary.