Based on well researched documentation and interviews, the BBC committed a crime in its documentary about the Gujarat riots: it revealed India’s worst-kept secret, breaking a twenty-year taboo to keep quiet.
The documentary tells the story of how, during a three-day period, a vengeful yet methodically organised mob massacred 1,180 people, with about 80% of them being Muslims.
Human rights activists put the toll at about 2,500.
Narendra Modi has consistently refuted claims that he failed to put an end to the unrest in Gujarat.
Following this, Modi’s career took off, propelling him into national politics, and eventually into the highest office in the country.
In a 541-page report published in 2013, a special investigative team that the Supreme Court had commissioned to look into Modi’s and others’ involvement in the violence concluded that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against the chief minister at the time.
Modi was selected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate the following year. He won the general elections in 2014 and came back to power in 2019 with a larger parliamentary majority.
Questions about Modi’s involvement in the violence have long been contentious in India and abroad, but the BBC documentary takes the discussion a step further by emphasising his role through expert commentary.
It reveals that a previously unreleased report from the British Foreign Office held Modi “directly responsible” for the “climate of impunity” that allowed the violence and said it had “all the hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing.”
Interviews with former BJP politicians who support Modi and vehemently reject his involvement in the violence are also included in the documentary. They highlight the 2013 ruling of the Indian Supreme Court, which held that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him.
Other memos sent by the British government and other Western diplomats, including the former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, are also made public by the BBC. In these memos, Modi’s actions at the time are sharply criticised.
“Narendra Modi is directly responsible” for what happened in Gujarat in 2002. More than anything the government has done or said, those four words acknowledge the suffering imposed on India’s Muslims who have endured twenty years of gaslighting.
Since 2014, Modi’s BJP and other right-wing organisations linked to the RSS have stepped up their Hindu supremacist campaign, focusing on the nation’s largest minority—Muslims.
The BBC programme is being disparaged online by Modi’s supporters as “colonial” and “white” propaganda.
Media watchdogs have criticised the use of emergency powers to block access to and sharing of footage in India as well as the Indian government’s decision to restrict the documentary that was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
An advisor in India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting claimed that links to the BBC documentary India: The Modi Question, which the government has previously referred to as a “propaganda piece,” have been blocked on Twitter and YouTube.
Has there been justice after all these years?
No, not for the many numbers of victims whose murders have never been solved. The courts have cleared the current administration of all liability. No one has been held accountable.
Those who testified against the administration have also been charged with crimes. The most prominent among them, Sanjeev Bhatt, was sentenced to life in prison in connection with a custodial death in 1990.
The issue is not whether the system failed to uphold law and order at this point. It is about whether people were left to the wolves or fed to them.