BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
The link of the Narendra Modi BBC documentary shared on social media by TMC MP Mahua Moitra, and removed the next day, gave many in India an opportunity to see what our own media should have brought to light.
The focus of the around fifty-eight-minute documentary is not something about which most Indians were in the dark.
It contains pictures, interviews and quotes that have been aired before, but its production makes the narrative flow in a way that it can easily permeate to a wider audience.
The BBC documentary does not conclusively prove the prime minister of India Narendra Modi a villain.
Palpably, that does not appear to be the reason behind the making of the documentary.
It is a collection of material that provides a circumstantial basis of what the then chief minister of Gujarat did and could have done to avoid the societal split India is now witnessing.
The documentary begins with the narrative of an Indian living in the United Kingdom and ends with his unfinished search for the truth and that of many others – one of them is IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, now in jail.
Sanjiv Bhatt was one of the key witnesses to what happened in the nights preceding the massacre. He did not change his stance in the Supreme Court and is now himself in jail.
The documentary details how the picture kept changing through stages of the trial, alongside the growth of Narendra Modi from chief minister to prime minister with all aspersions against him cast to the wayside.
Stating that the Government of India did not respond to requests to present their point of view, the documentary does feature a BJP spokesman’s narrative which runs through the documentary and, as is expected, is not very convincing.
The truth cannot be hidden nor can lies. They can be buried momentarily, but they can never be done away with completely. And, this BBC documentary proves this.
The documentary falls back on its own archives, dredging up two interviews of Narendra Modi as chief minister of Gujarat that seem to be most damaging because they predict the dire situation India could be in for.
BBC has been the beacon of news to India for ages. Remember Radio Ceylon broadcasting the BBC News? If the news was from BBC, it was the truth and it has not changed much.
The documentary has all hallmarks of a good production. When it appears to have divulged something murky and you think you have seen the worst it has to offer, something more surfaces – remember, the truth cannot be hidden.
As one finished watching the documentary, thoughts raced to discover the reason why the documentary was being banned, especially after the scope appeared limited.
The BBC documentary, however, reflects the ills in Indian society, because what happened in Gujarat has in other forms happened in other states, through other chief ministers. One case that comes to mind is that of Jadavpur University’s Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra.
Ambikesh was acquitted by the Alipore District Court after being booked in 2012 for allegedly forwarding defamatory cartoons of West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee and TMC leader Mukul Roy.
“Of course I am happy to be out of all this. But who will give me back these years? The case was dragged on intentionally for such a long time without any merit,” the professor was quoted in the media.
“It was an unprecedented incident. A railway budget was presented by one person and by the time it was passed in Parliament, the railway minister had changed. Mukul Roy was made the new minister. Naturally, it was a talking point and the cartoon was about that,” Abhishek claimed.
Dissent in India is handled in many ways and unfortunately undemocratic means are used more often. The government reaction against the BBC documentary would not have been as drastic had the media in India been unshackled.
The BBC stepped in, or rather gained more popularity then it should have, because the media in India is weak. Pointing fingers at the Government of India now is to the media like covering up its own weakness of not being able to stand up for the truth.
We have been twiddling our thumbs instead of taking up our pens to stoke the truth. And the Government of India has a role to play in reining in the media too, though not a primary one, because, in the end, each one is the master of his own destiny.
In the meantime, the ban will be a boon for the BBC.