YouTube and Twitter Enforce Indian Censorship of BBC Documentary Critical of Modi
By Yousuf Ali
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has long been the subject of serious criticism for his record against religious minorities in his country, particularly Muslims. This is because he is a leading figure in the Hindu Nationalist ideology known as Hindutva which sees all non-Hindu religions as alien to India. Furthermore, his handling of the 2002 Gujarat riots led to the killings of thousands of Muslims while he was the Chief Minister of the state. The BBC made a documentary showcasing this and several events showcasing the persecution of Muslims since he became prime minister of India in 2014.
According to Al Jazeera, “As soon as the news of the Godhra incident spread, Hindu mobs began to rampage through Muslim neighbourhoods across Gujarat. More than 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed and dozens of women were raped in what turned out to be one of the worst religious massacres in India’s history, turning Gujarat into one of India’s most religiously polarised states. Many foreign governments, including the United Kingdom, stopped engaging with Modi at that time, while the United States imposed a travel ban on him.” The documentary said that Modi was responsible at the very least for facilitating the environment in which the riots occurred if not directly contributing to them.
In response to the criticism, India has banned the documentary while successfully managing to get it off YouTube and Twitter. ‘India has denounced the film as propaganda even though it interviewed both supporters and critics of Modi. According to Al Jazeera, “Calling the two-part BBC film, India: The Modi Question, a “propaganda piece”, the government ordered Twitter to take down more than 50 tweets linking to the documentary while YouTube was instructed to block any video uploads.
A screening of the documentary at one of India’s premier universities on Tuesday was disrupted by the authorities, who allegedly cut the power and internet lines to the office of the students’ union which had organized the event. India media reports said stones were thrown at students watching the film.
Critics say that the censorship is evidence of the reality of oppression which the documentary showcases. Human Rights Watch pointed out how those convicted of crimes against Muslims were honored by supporters from Modi’s BJP. Furthermore, it said that if India wanted to protect its image, it should put effort into protecting the rights of all of its people instead of muzzling those who point out such oppression.