Rights groups to screen banned Modi documentary before White House visit

Ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the White House, human rights groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have scheduled a private screening of a controversial BBC documentary in Washington. The documentary, titled India: The Modi Question, examines Modi’s leadership during the 2002 Gujarat riots, which resulted in the deaths of at least 1,000 people, predominantly Muslims. The screening is set for June 20, two days before Modi’s official state visit with United States President Joe Biden.

Upon announcing the screening, Human Rights Watch emphasised that the documentary had been banned in India. The Indian government had previously expressed anger over the documentary’s release in January, labelling it a “propaganda piece” and blocking the sharing of any clips from it on social media platforms.

The documentary focuses on Modi’s role as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat during the riots. Activists claim the death toll was more than double the official figure. Modi has consistently denied allegations that he failed to take sufficient action to halt the violence, and a Supreme Court-ordered investigation found no evidence to prosecute him.

Last month, the White House defended Modi’s upcoming state visit, despite concerns about human rights in India. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that Biden believes “this is an important relationship that we need to continue and build on as it relates to human rights.”

Advocacy groups have expressed concerns over what they perceive as a worsening human rights situation in India under Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), particularly in terms of treatment of minorities, dissidents, and journalists. The government, however, denies these allegations and maintains that it works for the upliftment of all groups.

In February, tax officials inspected BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, and in April, the financial crime agency launched an investigation into the broadcaster over allegations of foreign exchange rule violations. A government adviser insisted that the inspection was not “vindictive.”

The BBC has stood by its reporting for the documentary, which was not aired in India, and stated that it “does not have an agenda.”

World News


With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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