Home Feature Post The BBC’s Two-Part Documentary On India’s PM Narendra Modi Lands It In Trouble With India’s Foreign Ministry

The BBC’s Two-Part Documentary On India’s PM Narendra Modi Lands It In Trouble With India’s Foreign Ministry

by James William

The BBC’s new documentary revisits allegations from two decades ago that then-chief minister Narendra Modi turned a blind eye to the 2002 Gujarat riots after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was set on fire. More than 1,000 people died in the ensuing bloodshed, mostly Muslims.

The government in Delhi has urged Twitter and YouTube to block clips of the documentary in India. CPJ criticised the move as an attack on freedom of expression and free press.


A two-part bbc documentary on modi on India’s PM Narendra Modi aired in the UK earlier this year, but has landed the British broadcaster in trouble with the Indian government. The documentaries, titled India: The Modi Question, looked into allegations that Modi endorsed and encouraged anti-Muslim violence during riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was the Chief Minister. The BBC was able to access confidential documents from the British Foreign Office, and featured an interview with Jack Straw, the UK foreign secretary at the time of the riots.

The footage angered India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, and led to protests against the BBC in both the UK and India. The Indian government banned the documentary from being shown in the country, and used emergency laws to block links to it on social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube. This was not the first time that the government had used such measures to try to shut down criticism of Modi and his policies, but it was by far the most high profile.

While the documentary did not air in India, it was widely available on social media, and local activists were able to arrange for wildcat screenings in several cities across the country. However, these events were often met with violence from local BJP and Hindu nationalist groups, and some students were even arrested for their involvement in these demonstrations. Despite the attempts to prevent these screenings, the documentary remains popular among Indian citizens.

The documentary has also sparked controversy in the United States, where two human rights organizations have invited policymakers and journalists to a private screening of the film in Washington on June 20, just days before Modi’s official state visit to the White House. The US-based groups say they want to highlight the impact of Modi’s policies on India’s minority communities, and have been accused by some critics of having an “anti-India agenda”. Several Conservative MPs with close ties to the Modi government have called the documentary a hatchet job, while a member of the House of Lords wrote to the BBC to ask whether the BBC employed any Pakistani staff involved in making it.


The two-part BBC documentary India: the Modi question examines tensions between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority and focuses on PM Narendra Modi’s track record in relation to those tensions. It was broadcast in the UK on Tuesday and is also being aired in the US next week. The first part of the documentary examined alleged religious violence in Gujarat in 2002, when Modi was the state’s chief minister. The riots broke out after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was set on fire, killing dozens of people. The documentary cites a confidential report by the UK government that found that the riots had the “hallmarks of ethnic cleansing” and that Modi was directly responsible for creating a climate of impunity for the violence. It was a major turning point in the career of Modi, who went on to become India’s prime minister in 2014 and has never apologised for the violence.

While the documentary may have raised several issues that have been around for years, it was the focus on Modi’s role in the riots that led to a storm of controversy in India. The film was heavily criticised by the BJP and its allies for revisiting allegations that had been dismissed by courts. The Indian foreign ministry denounced the documentary as propaganda and said it lacked objectivity and displayed a “continuing colonial mindset”.

A number of Indian students have tried to organise screenings of the documentary, but they faced threats of violence and arrest. Some universities were forced to close their doors, and the documentary was blocked on social media sites. The BJP accused the BBC of having an anti-India agenda and called for its licence to be cancelled. The BBC responded by saying that the documentary was “rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards”. It also offered the Indian government a right to reply, but they declined to do so.

However, many Indians have been able to view the documentary through illegal means. Using virtual private networks (VPNs) and flash drives, they have been able to access the film from websites that have not been blocked by the government.


India’s foreign ministry has slammed the BBC over its two-part documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling it “propaganda” and claiming it lacks objectivity. The two-part series, titled India: The Modi Question, questions Modi’s role in the 2002 riots in Gujarat, when he was chief minister of the state. The riots left more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead. The government claims the film cites discredited evidence and is biased against the country.

The controversy has pushed the documentary to greater international prominence, with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International organizing screenings in Washington ahead of Modi’s visit to the United States on June 20. It has also drawn attention to dwindling freedoms in one of the world’s largest democracies. The film’s ban in India has been criticized as an attack on free speech and press freedom. The Indian government has used emergency laws to block access to the video, and has asked YouTube and Twitter to remove clips from the platform.

In a statement, the IPI expressed its “alarm” over the use of emergency powers to censor the documentary. The organization said the use of these powers gives the government “expansive and unchecked power” to control and censor online content. It has also urged Facebook and Google to fight the order.

Last week, an adviser to the government’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting called the documentary “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage.” He added that he had asked Twitter and YouTube to block tweets that shared links to the film. Both companies have complied with the requests.

The BBC is facing a defamation suit filed by a group that accuses it of defaming Modi. The group claims the documentary is biased and ignores evidence that shows the prime minister’s complicity in the riots. It also alleges that the BBC was aware of the violence before it was reported in the news media.

A spokesperson for the BBC denied the allegations, saying that the documentary had been “rigorously researched.” The spokesperson also argued that it was inappropriate to comment on the case until the court had heard all the facts.


The two-part documentary delved into Modi’s role as chief minister of Gujarat during riots that killed hundreds of Muslims in 2002. The riots were triggered by the deaths of Hindu pilgrims in a train fire that many blamed on Muslim attackers, and led to a wave of deadly violence across the state. Modi denied accusations that he failed to stop the attacks and was later cleared by a Supreme Court inquiry. The documentary’s release was controversial in India, where the government banned its broadcast and ordered social media sites like YouTube to remove clips from it. The BBC has responded to the controversy by defending the documentary as “rigorously researched”.

The first episode begins with a build-up of ominous music before the supposedly big reveal – a declassified British government report from 2002 that says Modi was complicit in the riots against Muslims. It alleges that Modi encouraged the Hindu mobs and directed police to stand back, allowing them to burn down Muslim houses. It also states that senior police officers who took a stand against Modi and his right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, were jailed for their refusal to cooperate with the government.

While the allegations in the documentary are nothing new, it lays out all the available evidence in one place for viewers who are not familiar with India’s history or politics. It also shows how Modi used the riots to rise to power and become prime minister. The documentary also points out how the BJP, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and other Hindu nationalist organisations have used their influence to suppress any dissenting voices in India’s media.

Despite the Indian government’s attempts to block the documentary, students in several cities have promised to show it at their schools. The first screening in Delhi was disrupted by a power cut and threats from opponents, but the organizers say they will continue to hold demonstrations in support of the film. “We won’t let anyone shut our screens,” said the leader of the Student Federation of India (SFI), a left-wing student group.


The BBC documentary on Narendra Modi offers a comprehensive insight into the life and political journey of the Indian Prime Minister. Through a mix of interviews, archival footage, and on-the-ground reporting, it sheds light on his rise to power, controversial policies, and the complexities of modern Indian politics.


  1. What is the main focus of the BBC documentary on Modi? The main focus of the BBC documentary on Modi is to provide a detailed exploration of Narendra Modi’s life, from his humble beginnings to becoming the Prime Minister of India, and to analyze the impact of his policies and governance on the nation.
  2. Does the documentary offer a balanced perspective on Modi’s leadership? The documentary attempts to present a balanced perspective on Modi’s leadership by incorporating diverse viewpoints from experts, political analysts, and individuals directly affected by his policies. However, as with any contentious political figure, opinions may vary among viewers regarding the documentary’s objectivity.

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