The US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, while addressing a question posed by a Pakistani journalist on the recently aired BBC documentary based on the 2002 Gujarat riots, said that the US was not familiar with it.
The documentary, titled ‘India: The Modi Question’, focuses on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his then state government’s response to the 2002 Gujarat riots. India had dubbed the documentary as a “propaganda piece” designed to push a particular “discredited narrative”.
Addressing a press briefing in Washington Monday, Ned Price told reporters that the US shares an “exceptionally deep partnership” with New Delhi based on values that are common to both the US and Indian democracies. “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,” he was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
“What I will say broadly is that there are a number of elements that undergird the global strategic partnership that we have with our Indian partners. There are close political ties. There are economic ties. There are exceptionally deep people-to-people ties between the US and India,” he added, as the Biden administration chose to distance itself from the British documentary.
The documentary, which flagged the violence, including the killing of three UK nationals and the alleged murder of former state minister Haren Pandya, also interviewed former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who served in office between 2001 and 2006.
Straw says in the documentary that at that time the UK government had instituted an inquiry and a team visited Gujarat to investigate the riots. He says the team produced “a very thorough report” that, according to the documentary, blamed the then Modi government for the violence that targeted minorities.
Slamming the documentary, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said last week: “The bias, lack of objectivity and continuing colonial mindset are blatantly visible.”
The documentary’s release, in fact, came months after the Supreme Court had agreed with the findings of the Special Investigation Team appointed by it, which had said that there was no “larger conspiracy” behind the 2002 Gujarat riots. The SC dismissed the appeal filed by Zakia Jafri challenging the SIT’s clean chit to Modi and others in cases related to the riots.
Last week, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting directed YouTube and Twitter to take down links sharing the BBC documentary. Links to the documentary had been posted by prominent persons like Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien, Hollywood actor John Cusack and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, among others.
The order was passed under the emergency provisions of the Information Technology Rules, 2021, for allegedly casting “aspersions on the authority and credibility of the Supreme Court of India, sowing divisions among various communities, and making unsubstantiated allegations regarding actions of foreign governments in India”.
Student and youth outfits in Kerala have however decided to screen the documentary on campuses and public places in the state. In Delhi, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union has released a pamphlet inviting students to the screening of the documentary at the union’s office after which the JNU administration barred the students union from screening.
In Hyderabad, the work was screened at the shopping complex on the north campus of the University of Hyderabad last Saturday, brewing controversy.
While UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended PM Modi, saying he disagreed “with the characterization” of his Indian counterpart in the BBC documentary, a US State Department spokesperson said that the US is not familiar with it.