A special screening of the BBC documentary that examines Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots will take place at the Parliament House in Canberra on the day that he will meet with his Australian counterpart.
On Monday evening, Modi touched down in Australia. He is currently in the third and final nation of his trip.
Together with the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, he organised a demonstration for the Indian diaspora on Tuesday at Sydney’s Olympic Park.
He will have in-depth discussions with Prime Minister Albanese on Wednesday. The BBC programme will be shown that same evening at the Parliament House in Canberra. A group of parliamentarians and human rights advocates organised the showing.
The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, had slammed the BBC documentary as a “propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative”. “The bias, the lack of objectivity, and frankly, a continuing colonial mindset, is blatantly visible,” he said.
A panel discussion with Australian Greens senator Jordan Steele-John, Aakashi Bhatt, the daughter of former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, and Aakar Patel, the former head of Amnesty India, will follow the 40-minute documentary.
Greens senator David Shoebridge was noted as condemning the de facto prohibition on the documentary in New Delhi in an article about the upcoming event by Australia’s SBS News.
“We’ve made it very clear that Australia has and should have a strong friendship with India, but that friendship should be a friendship of truth,” he said.
He said that Australia should be raising the issue of the deterioration of human rights in India. “We have said repeatedly that the degrading human rights situation in India, that the lack of freedom of press, needs to be an issue that is squarely raised by Australia in its involvement with the Indian government”.
Shoebridge said that if the BBC documentary “can’t be shown in India”, it should be “able to be shown here, right in the heart of a democracy in Australia”.
The Indian diaspora “has been a core support base of Hindutva, from organising funds to volunteering for Hindutva organisations and political parties both in India and abroad,” according to Mohan J. Dutta, one of the panellists for the screening and Dean’s Chair Professor of Communication at the University of New Zealand.
“Australia is part of this interconnected ecosystem, with far-right Hindutva accounts in Australia playing key roles in Hindutva-linked violence across the diaspora, adversely impacting social cohesion beyond Australia to Aotearoa, New Zealand and Leicester, UK. It is therefore critical at this juncture of Hindutva and global politics that progressive voices in the diaspora consistently speak up against the hate politics of Hindutva, building empirical registers for witnessing the hate, its networked structures, and its dangerous effects,” he added.
Mentioning the organisations who are organising the event, Dutta added, “The Center for Culture-centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) is honoured to be a part of this collective, drawing on our own work that highlights the harmful health effects of the Islamophobic hate being produced and amplified by Hindutva globally, which we have concerningly found to be much greater in volume than the Islamophobia being spread by white supremacists and working in tandem with white supremacist ideologues.”
A secret UK government report suggested that Gujarat’s then-chief minister, Narendra Modi, had contributed to the feeling of impunity during the 2002 riots, and this was the basis for the two-part BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question.
The BBC did not telecast the documentary in India, but the Indian government gave orders to multiple social media platforms to delete several accounts that had uploaded links.
A month later, IT authorities searched the BBC’s offices in Mumbai and New Delhi. They claimed that anomalies had been found, including the failure to declare some remittances as income in India and the failure to pay taxes on those payments. These claims have been refuted by the BBC.