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Gandhinagar: The Gujarat Legislative Assembly has passed a resolution requesting the Centre to take strict action against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for "tarnishing the image and popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi" with its documentary on the 2002 riots in the state.
The controversial two-part series by the BBC titled 'India: The Modi Question' misrepresents the events of 2002 in a malicious and low-level attempt to tarnish India's image globally, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Vipul Patel said in the House on Friday while moving the resolution.
The documentary claims to have probed certain aspects of the riots, which took place after the Godhra train burning incident, when Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat. Soon after its release, the government issued directions in January this year to block multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the documentary.
Patel's resolution was supported by BJP MLAs Manisha Vakil, Amit Thaker, Dhavalsinh Zala and Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi.
It was passed by voice vote in the absence of Congress MLAs who were expelled from the House earlier in the day.
After passing the resolution unanimously, Speaker Shanker Chaudhary said the attempt by the BBC is "reprehensible" and is "condemned vehemently", adding the House passed the resolution to send its message to the Centre.
"India is a democratic country and freedom of expression is at the core of its Constitution, but that does not mean a news media can act by abusing such freedom," said Patel while moving the private-member resolution in the second sitting of the House.
"If someone behaves or acts like this, then it cannot be taken lightly. BBC is losing its credibility and seems to be working with some hidden agenda against India and the Indian government. Hence, this House requests the central government to take strict action against the mind-boggling findings shown in the BBC documentary," Patel said in the Assembly.
Through the documentary, there is a deliberate attempt to "tarnish the image and popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi" with an agenda to affect the country's intention to find top place globally, Patel said.
He claimed that opposition parties in other countries support the government during such times, but this is not the case in India, which allowed international organisations like the BBC to get the strength to carry out activities against the country.
"The Nanavati-Shah Commission concluded after a thorough investigation that burning of coaches S6 and 7 of Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 27, 2002 was a premeditated conspiracy, and that the state-wide riots that followed were spontaneous," Patel said.
The Nanavati-Shah Commission found no evidence that the state government, religious organisation or political party played any role in the riots, and attempts to make the then chief minister (Modi) and officials responsible have also failed in the courts, the BJP MLA asserted.
Supporting the resolution, BJP legislator Vakil said the intention of the documentary was to tarnish India's global image, adding Modi's life has been a journey of courage and compassion.
As the chief minister and prime minister, he has become the most popular world leader, she said.
On the 2002 riots, she said certain NGOs and activists conspired to defame the Gujarat government and wanted to damage Modi's reputation, adding there was a larger political conspiracy of destabilising the state government by hook or crook.
Referring to the Supreme Court verdict in the Zakia Jafri case giving clean chit to Modi, Vakil claimed the BBC documentary was "mere international propaganda which is totally biased and showcases the colonial mindset".
Supporting the resolution, Thaker said Modi is not a question but a solution for various issues plaguing the world today, such as climate change and COVID-19 pandemic.
The BBC is in the habit of making controversial documentaries on subjects in India, Thaker alleged.
He also questioned the timing of the documentary by connecting it with the conclusion of Congress 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' led by Rahul Gandhi.
Minister Sanghavi said the documentary was not just against Modi but against 135 crore citizens of the country.
"The resolution brought by Vipul Patel for strict action is historic...Is it Modi's fault to realise the dream of making Gujarat a riot-free state? Many forces worked to ensure Gujarat does not get a stable government," Sangahvi said in his speech in the House.
He said the "so-called intellectuals" started hurling one allegation after another against Modi after he took over as the prime minister.
"As 2024 (Lok Sabha polls) approaches, they (opponents) have no other issue against Modi. They used the BBC to make a documentary," Sanghavi added.
He also criticised social activist Teesta Setalvad and said "truths regarding her have not been shown in any documentary".
The minister also quoted "important people" who have commented and criticised the BBC documentary such as the Indian foreign ministry spokesperson, British parliamentarian Bob Blackman, and former BBC head Mark Tully.
Sanghavi compared the BBC documentary to the "toolkit" conspiring against India, adding that certain sections of the media suffered from "Modi phobia".