[*It's a documentary film
<https://archive.org/details/narendra-modi-bbc-documentary>) -- for the
first time disclosing the findings of an investigation conducted by the
(foreign office of the) British Government in the Gujarat 2002 pogrom.*
*That's the claim.*
*The claim is uncontested.*

*The investigation concludes:*
*I  The (much underreported) violence was pre-planned and amounts to ethnic
*II. "Narendra Modi is directly responsible."*

Not that others did not so claim in the past.
In fact, numerous national and international human rights bodies had made
that point.
(Based on that, the US had cancelled Modi's visa. And it remained cancelled
till he became the Prime Minister of India.)
Yet *this confirming disclosure carries some weight -- adds to the
credibility and authenticity*.

Also much significant is the degree of independence that the BBC -- a
state-funded media organisation -- enjoys and exercises, as amply testified
by the response of the British Prime Minister: <
Quite unthinkable in "New India".
(May look up: <https://twitter.com/MANJULtoons/status/1616450481278095360

New BBC documentary puts Narendra Modi back in the dock


It reveals a secret British foreign office report that found Narendra Modi
culpable in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

That the British government found Narendra Modi culpable in the 2002
Gujarat riots is the most significant takeaway from the first episode of
the two-part BBC television investigative documentary, *India: The Modi
Question, *which was broadcast in Britain on January 17.

Soon after the riots, the British foreign office had undertaken an
investigation. The BBC documentary claims that the probe’s
conclusions—hitherto classified—are being disclosed for the first time.

According to the show, the inquiry carried out by a United Kingdom diplomat
was headlined: “Subject: Gujarat Pogrom”. Its summary read: “Extent of
violence much greater than reported. At least 2,000 killed. Widespread
systematic rape of Muslim women. 138,000 internal refugees. The targeted
destruction of all Muslim businesses in Hindu and mixed Hindu-Muslim areas.”

It went on to state: “Violence planned, possibly months in advance, and
politically motivated. Aim was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas. Led by
VHP (Hindu extremist organisation), under the protection of the state
government. Reconciliation impossible while Modi remains Chief Minister.”

The report then entered into detail: “Their (the Hindu mobs’) systematic
campaign of violence has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.”
Furthermore: “The VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) could not have inflicted so
much damage without the climate of impunity created by the state

Finally, and most devastatingly, the British Foreign Office report stated:
“Narendra Modi is directly responsible.”

*ALSO READ: *‘The spell of Modi has been broken’

Almost contemporaneously the European Union, too, had initiated a probe.
According to the BBC, “it reportedly found that ministers (of the Gujarat
government) took active part in the violence and that senior police
officers were instructed not to intervene in the rioting”.

According to the report: “Reliable contacts have told us that Modi met
senior police officers on the 27th of February (2002) and ordered them not
to intervene in the rioting.”

The BBC, however, also admits in the show that “police contacts deny this
meeting happened”. It explains that by accepting that such instructions
were issued, the police would in effect concede that they implemented the
orders and consequently implicate themselves.

The documentary also highlights a series of denials by Modi’s supporters.
Even though R.B. Sreekumar, head of police intelligence in Gujarat, and
Sanjiv Bhatt, another police officer, had maintained that Modi indeed
imposed the diktat, witnesses for the Chief Minister countered that neither
Sreekumar nor Bhatt was present at the concerned meeting. In 2022, both
were accused of fabrication. Bhatt is in any case serving a life sentence
on another matter.

The documentary mentions how during the riots Congress party MP Ehsan
Jafri’s house was surrounded by Hindu fanatics baying for his blood. A
first-hand account speaks of how he phoned Modi to plead for police
assistance. The Chief Minister denied receiving the call. Jafri was hacked
to death.

The documentary has also recorded that Haren Pandya, a minister in the
Gujarat government, testified to a Jesuit priest that Modi did issue the
aforementioned orders. But his attendance at the meeting was also
contradicted. The programme has BJP MP Subramanian Swamy giving his opinion
on Pandya’s death to the BBC, calling it “tragic and suspicious”.

Regarding the documentary, a former Indian foreign secretary remarked: “I
do not recall any other friendly head of government getting such criticism
on the BBC.” It, therefore, raises the obvious question: why did the BBC
decide to air this explosive film on the Gujarat riots now? The British
government is presently engaged in delicate negotiations with its Indian
counterpart to arrive at an ambitious trade treaty.

The answer lies in the fact that while the BBC is a public broadcaster
operating under a Royal Charter and is funded by licence fees from every TV
household in Britain, it is zealously protective of its editorial
independence. It is not required to run the impending broadcast of the film
past the British foreign office—which would most certainly have objected to
the idea.

Jack Straw, who was Foreign Secretary under Prime Minister Tony Blair when
the riots occurred, was the one who set up the investigation. Previously as
Home Secretary, he instituted the Freedom of Information Act in 2000. In
2015, he was a member of a panel established to review the Act. Straw’s
proximity to the UK’s Information Commission might have played a part in
declassifying the foreign office’s clandestine investigative report.

The BBC, of course, enjoys disproportionately greater clout with British
administrative and quasi-state authorities compared to other media
organisations. A request from any other media outlet would likely have been
thwarted by the Foreign Office on the grounds that disclosure at the
current juncture—when Modi is in power in India—would cause awkward ripples
in bilateral relations.

Straw, who is a commentator in the documentary, says about the inquiry’s
report: “It was very shocking. These were very serious claims; that Chief
Minister Modi played a pretty active part in pulling back the police and in
tacitly encouraging the Hindu extremists. That was a pretty egregious
example of political involvement really to prevent the police from doing
their job, which was to protect both communities, the Hindus and the
Muslims.” He goes on to underline: “It is obviously a stain on his (Modi’s)
reputation. There is no way out of that.”
“Quite menacing”

While the film is mostly based on compelling archival footage and
interviews, seen alongside the foreign office report, the portrayal of Modi
is that of a chilling communalist. His attitude towards a BBC woman
interviewer when he called elections in 2002 to capitalise on Gujarati
Hindu sentiments following the riots, was, as the person described it on
air, “quite menacing”. The interviewer had asked: “So the Muslims who would
say they are still terrified, they are still frightened to go back to their
homes, they still feel that the people who murdered their relatives have
not been brought to justice. What would you say to them?”

Modi had replied aggressively in broken English: “I am not agree with your
analysis. I am not agree with your information. This absolutely misguided
information to you. From where you have pick up this kind of garbage I do
not know.”

Interviewer: “And the independent reports that have already been published
to what has happened…”

Modi interrupted: “They have no right to talk about the internal matter of
any government. I am very, very clear in my mind. If they have done, they
have done wrong.”

Interviewer: “… Do you think you should have done anything differently?

Modi: “Yes. One area where I was very, very weak. That was how to handle
the media.”

Through practically all of the interaction, he glowered angrily at the
woman, wagging his left index finger at her while speaking.

Modi visited Britain in 2003 at the invitation of Hindu fundamentalist
groups, much against Whitehall’s wishes. The British Home Office had said
then: “We are aware he is visiting the UK. He is not visiting at Her
Majesty’s government invitation nor does the government plan to have any
contact with him while he’s here.”

The late Ambassador Satyabrata Pal (who died in 2019 following a freak
accident a few years earlier) was the Indian deputy high commissioner at
the time. He wrote, “The external affairs minister (Yashwant Sinha) had
gone to Prime Minister Vajpayee, who had concurred that the visit was
undesirable and must be aborted.” But apparently because of pressure from
the Sangh Parivar, it went ahead.

While Modi was in the UK, an application in a London court for a warrant of
arrest against him failed narrowly. The British barrister who moved the
court in the matter, Imran Khan, appears on the documentary to say:
“Knowing what we now know and the information that we now have, if we had
that at that time, I am pretty sure summons would have been issued for
Modi’s arrest.”

The UK imposed a diplomatic boycott and a  *de facto* travel ban against
Modi around 2005. At about the same time, the US administration also
revoked his visa.

Later, in November 2022, while explaining the grant of immunity to Saudi
Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in a lawsuit in the US, the
latter’s State Department spokesman cited the suspension of the
cancellation of Modi’s visa as a precedent—albeit temporary since he is
head of government of a country Washington wants to do business with.

*ALSO READ: *India’s Sawdust Caesar

In a caption, the documentary states: “More than 30 people in India
declined to take part in this series because of fears about their safety.”
It also records: “The Indian government declined to comment on the
allegations made in this film.”

The film signs off with the comment: “History is being rewritten,” in
reference to the present circumstances in India. The second part of the
film—focussing on the period since Modi’s re-election in 2019—will be aired
on January 24.

Expressing strong objection to the BBC documentary, the spokesperson of the
Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi, said that it was “a
propaganda piece, designed to push a particular discredited narrative”.

*London-based Ashis Ray has been a foreign correspondent for 45 years,
working mainly for BBC and CNN, where he was editor-at-large. He has also
been an academic visitor at St Antony’s College, Oxford. *

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