Banned in India, BBC documentary on Modi to be screened in Australian Parliament

Canberra (Australia), May 23 (KMS): A documentary banned in India for exposing the role of Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, during the deadly anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state two decades ago will be aired in the parliament during his trip to Australia.

Those present will also hear from the daughter of a man who accused Narendra Modi of ordering authorities not to prevent the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002. Modi was Gujarat chief minister during the mass killing.

The Indian Prime Minister will arrive in Australia on Monday evening, and will then meet Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and hold a rally at Sydney’s Olympic Park on Tuesday. On Wednesday evening, a group of politicians and human rights activists will gather in Parliament House for a screening of a BBC documentary that exposes Modi’s actions during the Gujarat riots.

In January this year, ‘India: The Modi Question’ documentary revealed a secret UK government report that held Modi directly responsible for enabling a climate of impunity during the riots, which it said bore “all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing”. Using emergency powers, the Indian authorities banned the documentary in the country.

Weeks later, in a vindictive action, the authorities raided the BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai by the officials of Income Tax department.

Greens senator David Shoebridge, who will attend the screening, described the documentary as “extremely well-researched” and criticised New Delhi’s ban. “We’ve made it very clear that Australia has and should have a strong friendship with India, but that friendship should be a friendship of truth,” he said.

“We have said repeatedly that the degrading human rights situation in India, that the lack of freedom of press, needs to be an issue that is squarely raised by Australia in its involvement with the Indian government. So if the BBC documentary can’t be shown in India, well surely it should be able to be shown here, right in the heart of democracy in Australia,” he said.

Around 40 minutes of the documentary will be screened on Wednesday evening, before a panel discussion involving Aakashi Bhatt. Ms Bhatt is the daughter of former Indian policeman Sanjiv Bhatt, who claimed to have attended a meeting where Narendra Modi told officers to allow Hindus to “vent out their anger” on Muslims during the violence. An investigation team appointed by the Indian Supreme Court ultimately dismissed Sanjiv Bhatt’s claims, stating he had not attended any such meeting. Instead, he was sentenced to life in prison in 2019 over a death in custody case dating back to 1990. His supporters claim that Sanjiv Bhatt is innocent and has been framed for political reasons.

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