BBC Modi documentary row: ‘Not aware of it, only familiar with shared values with India,' says US

January 24,2023

In yet another twist to the controversy over the BBC documentary on PM Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots, the United States has said that it is “not familiar with it’’ while reiterating that it’s only familiar with the shared values with India.  US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, in an official statement, said, “Washington shares an ‘exceptionally deep partnership’ with New Delhi based on values that are common to both the US and Indian democracies.”

When questioned by a Pakistani journalist on the BBC documentary, Price said, “I'm not familiar with the (BBC) documentary (on 2002 Gujarat riots) you're referring to. I am very familiar with the shared values that connect the United States and India as two thriving, vibrant democracies.”  Price further stated that there are numerous elements that bolster the US` global strategic partnership with India which include political, economic and exceptionally deep people-to-people ties. 

Calling India`s democracy a vibrant one, Price said "we look to everything that ties us together, and we look to reinforce all of those elements that tie us together," as he underlined the diplomatic ties that US and India share with each other.

The BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots has sparked controversy since its release. Last week, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended Prime Minister Narendra Modi and distanced himself from the BBC documentary series, saying he "doesn`t agree with the characterisation" of his Indian counterpart.

Sunak made these remarks on the controversial documentary that was raised in the British Parliament by Pakistan-origin MP Imran Hussain. "The UK government`s position on this has been clear and longstanding and hasn`t changed, of course, we don`t tolerate persecution where it appears anywhere but I am not sure I agree at all with the characterisation that the honourable gentleman has put forward to," Sunak said while responding to Hussain`s question on the BBC report.

BBC documentary row: How it started?

UK’s national broadcaster BBC aired a two-part series attacking PM Narendra Modi`s tenure as Gujarat Chief Minister during the Gujarat riots of 2002. The documentary sparked outrage and was removed from select platforms. The Ministry of External Affairs responded to the BBC story by claiming that it was entirely biased. While addressing a weekly presser in New Delhi, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "We think this is a propaganda piece. This has no objectivity. This is biased. Do note that this hasn`t been screened in India. We don`t want to answer more on this so that this doesn`t get much dignity."

He even raised questions on "the purpose of the exercise and the agenda behind it."The documentary is a reflection of the agency and individuals that are peddling this narrative again. It makes us wonder about the purpose of the exercise and the agenda behind it; frankly, we do not wish to dignify these efforts," he added.

Referring to apparent remarks made by former UK Secretary Jack Straw in the documentary series, Bagchi said "He (Jack Straw) seems to be referring to some internal UK report. How do I have access to that? It`s a 20-year-old report. Why would we jump on it now? Just because Jack Straw says it how do they lend it that much legitimacy."

Back home, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju called the BBC documentary a “malicious campaign” and said that such things can’t tarnish India’s global image.

The Centre last week denounced the controversial BBC documentary series on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, describing as a `propaganda piece` designed to push a discredited narrative. The Centre also directed social media platforms Twitter and YouTube to block links to the documentary titled "India: The Modi Question"

The government told YouTube and Twitter to take down fresh links to the documentary if someone uploads or tweets them again, sources said. However, opposition parties have opposed the move and claimed the documentary has "exposed" PM Modi. A Supreme Court-appointed investigation had found no evidence of wrongdoing by PM Modi, who was chief minister of Gujarat when the riots broke out in February 2002.