This is known as the “Streisand effect,” he said The Hindu (Chennai): try to block information about something (as actress Barbra Streisand tried to do with photos of her Malibu mansion) and you’ll end up bringing it to a much larger audience than if you let it.
That’s what the Delhi government did, imposing emergency powers to stop the broadcast of a BBC documentary. The film in question examines the 2002 Gujarat riots in which around 790 Muslims were killed and the role Narendra Modi, India’s current prime minister, may have played in abetting them.
The reason for the riots was the death of 59 Hindus in a train fire, an accident that Hindu extremists were quick to blame on Muslims. Modi, Gujarat’s chief minister at the time, has always denied that he and his ruling Hindu nationalist BJP tacitly supported extremists: BBC program – India: The Modi Question – found memos indicating the opposite.
So, Delhi has now stepped in to stop the screenings and ordered YouTube and Twitter to remove the clips. Too late. Video materials have spread everywhere, and interest in them has grown. Also a good thing. India has quite enough censorship; we don’t need anymore.
Modi is not to blame for this uneducative row, said Tariq Mansoor in Indian Express (Noida): this is the BBC. Revisiting an unfortunate chapter in India’s history, he showed “complete contempt for Indian justice”. Cases related to the 2002 riots were heard at virtually all levels of the Indian justice system; including the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2013 that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Modi for failing to stop the violence.
India under Modi is prospering, Zahaq Tanveer said Firstpost (Mumbai). Its economy is on the rise and it chairs the G20: the riots of 2002 are a distant memory. Thus, the BBC program appears to be a “hit against Modi” and the rise of India’s status. “This is empty journalism.”
Rigorous BBC standards
On the contrary, said Shruti Kapila on The Print (New Delhi), it is the BBC’s exacting standards that make this documentary so authoritative. Critics decry it as “white propaganda”, but it is scrupulously fair, giving much weight to the arguments of Modi’s supporters.
Unfortunately, this is just the latest example of Delhi’s contempt for freedom of speech The Telegraph (Calcutta). “India leads the world in internet blackouts”; during mass farmers’ protests in 2021, the government “openly sought the removal of posts by journalists and other critics”.
Modi himself held none [open] press conference” after becoming Prime Minister in 2014, said Salil Tripathi Foreign Policy (Washington). But he cannot escape the fact that “life has become more difficult” for Indian Muslims under his watch as support for Hindu nationalism has grown. Fortunately, he can’t stop the BBC from exploring his disturbing past. “Modi can thank his luck that he is not facing a similar broadcaster in India.”