While critics and supporters of the Narendra Modi government have questioned the call to block access to the BBC’s contentious documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’, the Centre seemed to back its decision to block digital access to the programme.
The two-part BBC show has come under question for its lopsided portrayal of the Gujarat riots and— against the Supreme Court verdict on the matter— holding then chief minister Narendra Modi personally responsible for the violence.
Speaking to CNN-News18, Kanchan Gupta, senior adviser to the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry, said that the decision is not about censorship at all.
“This was a decision arrived at after multi-ministerial inputs and consultation. The decision was taken under emergency powers of IT Rules 2021. It is perfectly ordered and is part of the law in India," he said.
The opposition has taken to social media to show its support for the documentary. In a press briefing on Tuesday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that the “truth has a nasty habit of coming out".
“The MEA, MHA, I&B, and the IT ministry were involved in taking the call. There was specific input taken from every ministry and an assessment was made. Episode 1 of the two-part BBC series was found to be malicious propaganda. It lacked objectivity, credibility, and questioned the authority of the Indian justice system and the Supreme Court of India. It has the potential of inflaming passions and divisions between communities, thus posing a law and order situation," Gupta told CNN-News18.
People have seen in the past how purposeful misinterpretation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) by Indian and foreign media caused grief in the country, he added. “Similarly, here we had a malicious representation of unsubstantiated allegations, none of which have an iota of evidence. If there is any, it was not produced in what BBC called a ‘documentary’," Gupta said.
There will always be people who would try to exploit something for political reasons, he said. “The government is not concerned with people who even if they understand the potential mischief, just to criticise the government, will say something. The government’s concern is to maintain order and that institutions of the country are not denigrated by a foreign voice," Gupta said.
If a government wishes to censor something, the objective is different, and the provisions are different, he maintained. “This is purely under the emergency powers of the IT Rules," he said. Gupta insisted the series has not been banned, only digital access to it blocked.
He also added that the government will review the second episode once it is released (now aired by BBC) and take a call on whether to extend the block to it accordingly.
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