BBC PM Modi documentary series row 2023: Target prejudice or freedom of viewpoint; Ruckus in various institutions over ban of documentary

BBC PM Modi documentary series row has created tensions in various institutes. The administration has sought action against those creating such a ruckus.

BBC PM Modi documentary series row: Nowadays our country is going on a brawl in every issue with the involvement of various institutions, be it prestigious educational institutes such as JNU, Jamia Milia Islamia, or independent democratic institutions such as Judiciary, or Media. Though it is not new, the way things can shape with regard to such incidents is very unfortunate and creates a negative impression among the country’s people.

The globally famous media broadcaster, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recently released a documentary titled “India: The Modi Question” regarding the role of PM Narendra Modi in the Gujarat Riots of 2002. As the Indian government banned this documentary, institutions such as JNU or Hyderabad University, have already screened the documentary on their campus. After screening, huge protests erupted inside the institution creating a ruckus inside the campus.

Whether the BBC PM Modi documentary series row is a way to show freedom of perspective or a target prejudice towards the government, may affect both of the political ideas supporting or going against it.

Also Read: IB Recruitment 2023: Vacancies open for 1600+ posts, apply now

BBC PM Modi documentary series row: Why such controversy?

BBC documentary, with its first episode based on PM Modi’s role in the Gujarat Riots case of 2002 was released on the 20th of January on its official youtube channel. The documentary was shared on all major social media platforms. The questions regarding the role of PM Modi in the Godhra Riots have already been shut off by the Supreme Court of India. The re-emergence of the same story has created huge anger among the ruling party members.

After the documentary was readily available on social media, there was social media storm where some users began to protest and also others supported the documentary by running hashtags. But on the 21st of January, the senior advisor of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, shared a tweet saying the video is anti-India Garbage and has been blocked under Indian laws. After that, the tweets sharing this documentary were blocked as well.

The government of India showing action against this BBC PM Modi documentary series row has banned this movie on the basis of 2021 IT Rules, which gives special emergency powers to the government to ban any such item which might affect the interest of the nation. India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Arindam Bagchi has called the documentary “a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative.” Speaking to reporters at a news conference Thursday, Bagchi said: “It makes us wonder about the purpose of this exercise and the agenda behind it and frankly we do not wish to dignify such efforts.”

Student protests across the prestigious institute

The BBC PM Modi documentary series row has been spread within various educational institutions of the country. A group of students under the banner of Fraternity Movement, University of Hyderabad, organized a screening of the documentary and also a discussion session based on the first episode of the documentary on January 21 at the shopping complex on the north campus. At least seventy to eighty students were present in this screening.

After the screening occurred, the administration was quick to respond and ordered strict action. The Registrar of the University of Hyderabad, Dr. Devesh Nigam said, “On receiving the information, the security team and the Dean, of Students’ Welfare rushed to the venue and requested the organizers to stop the screening of the documentary.” He also said that this screening was held “without any prior notice or permission.” However, the organizers did not accede to this request and continued the screening of the documentary in presence of a few students.

After UoH, the screening of the documentary also occurred in JNU. Many incidents such as stone pelting by some groups of students to other students attending the screening of the documentary, internet cutoff, power cutoff, etc are also being reported there. Although power cut issues had stopped the screening of the documentary, the students saw the documentary on their personal laptops. The JNU Students’ Union had said that there is no intention to create any form of disharmony through the screening of the documentary, as per PTI reports.

It also sought clarification from the administration regarding rules which mandate that prior permission is required for the screening of any film or documentary on the university premises. 

Following the uproar over the screening of the BBC documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’ at JNU, a similar crisis has erupted at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, with some students being detained and riot police being deployed, according to reports. It witnessed heavy police deployment on Wednesday to prevent the members of the CPM-backed Students Federation of India (SFI) from showing the BBC documentary on Narendra Modi.

Around 40 students were detained by the police ahead of the screening that was scheduled to be held at 6 pm on the lawns of Jamia. The screening could not be held as the organizers were detained. As word spread about the plans for screening, the administration locked the entry points of the university and called the police.

The university reproduced a circular stating that no meeting of students or screening of any film shall be allowed on the campus without the permission of the competent authority, failing which strict disciplinary action shall be taken against the organizers. The BBC PM Modi documentary series row is expected to penetrate other educational institutes as well.

Clarification from BBC

BBC has said the film was rigorously researched. A BBC statement said the series examines “the tensions between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority and explores the politics of Mr. Modi in relation to those tensions”. It added that the Indian government was offered a right to reply, but had declined.

The BBC said in a statement regarding the BBC PM Modi documentary series row shared on social media that the documentary was “rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards.

The whole BBC PM Modi documentary series row has been a subject of a political agenda in our country. The political environment has turned very hostile where leaders of the ruling party are questioning the release, and timing of release whereas the opposition leaders are questioning the reasons to ban it. As the elections are approaching it would be interesting to see how this issue affects the poll result or just wipes off in the middle.

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Debanjan Chamlagain

Debanjan is a Co-Founder of Bohikitap. He has recently completed his Master's degree. He is an enthusiastic nature observer and has a keen interest in showing his presence in the education domain. Working in this genre motivates him and he leaves no stone unturned, to contribute in any way possible in the field of education.
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