A new two-part documentary series of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) ‘India: The Modi Question‘ focuses on the 2002 Gujarat riots that killed thousands and left millions homeless, especially in the Muslim community, and the role played by the then chief minister Narendra Modi’s government.
The documentary which is aired only in the United Kingdom looks at the escalating tension between the Muslim community and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as Hindu right-wing organisations – Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The first part of the two-part series, reportedly reveals ‘never-seen-before’ or ‘restricted’ documents in detail. These reports were never published to the public.
The summary of the report mentions statements such as “extend of violence much greater than reported”, “widespread and systematic rape of Muslim women”, “violence politically motivated”, “aim was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas”, “their systematic of violence has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing”.
Speaking to the BBC, former foreign secretary, Jack Straw (2001-2006) said he was personally involved in the investigations as the data and results provided were alarming.
“I was very worried about it. I took a great deal of personal interest because India is an important country with whom we (the UK) have relations. And so, we had to handle it very carefully,” Straw told the BBC, adding, “What we did was establish an inquiry and have a team go to Gujarat and find out for themselves what had happened. And they produced a very thorough report.”
A former British diplomat, who remains anonymous described the whole event as a pogrom.
To our readers, a pogrom is a term used when there is an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group.
In this case, it was the Muslims, the former diplomat said.
“At least 2000 people were murdered during the violence where the vast majority were Muslims. We described it as a pogrom – a deliberate, and politically driven effort targeted at the Muslim community,” the former diplomat told the BBC.
The report further states and confirms that though such large-scale violence was organised by the VHP it was impossible without the help of the state government, which was led by current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“These were very serious claims – that chief minister Modi played a pretty active part in pulling back the police and in tacitly encouraging the Hindu extremists,” Straw told the BBC.
He also told that the report categorically mentions that senior administrative and police officials were ‘instructed’ not to take part in the ongoing riots, or in other words, not to perform their duties at full capacity.
The 2002 Gujarat riots were a big blow to India’s reputation as a secular country in the international arena. The Tony Blair-led British government slapped a diplomatic boycott on Modi.
In an old interview to BBC’s Jill McGivering, Narendra Modi was in full denial about the atrocities and hate his state had suffered during the rioting period. He confidently answers to McGivering who questions him about the Muslim monstrosity conducted, that the state is “very peaceful”.
“Narendra Modi does not tend to be very media friendly. So, for him to agree to do a sit-down interview with us, felt like a bit of a scoop. He struck me as a very charismatic, very powerful, and quite menacing figure,” says BBC’s Jill McGivering.
On asked about his mishandling of the riots, Modi terms it as “propaganda by his opponents” and further adds that the reporter is also a part of it.
After a good pause, the reporter asks if there was something that he could have done differently, and Modi responded, “Yes, one area where I was very very weak and that was how to handle the media.”
In 2022, nearly two decades after the massacre, the Supreme Court of India gave a clean chit to Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah stating, “there was no conspiracy behind the Gujarat riots.”
The BBC Two documentary is not yet available for viewing in India.