Opposition leaders have ripped into the Centre over the removal of the controversial BBC series on Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Twitter and YouTube. Some of them tweeted alternative links where the first of the two-part series can be watched.
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Asked about the government's move to block access to the BBC documentary "India: The Modi Question", Congress's Gaurav Vallabh told reporters: "There is a scheme of the government of India called 'Block in India', like 'Make in India', 'Startup India'. The government does not want difficult questions to be asked. If the BBC headquarters were in Delhi, the ED (Enforcement Directorate) might have been on their doorstep by now."
Trinamool Congress's Derek O'Brien and Mahua Moitra both tweeted video links to the documentary. Calling it "censorship", Mr O'Brien said Twitter had taken down his earlier post which had received "lakhs of views". Today, he said another of his tweets has survived "for almost 3 days. WATCH".
Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra, known for her strong speeches in parliament, declared that the government is "insecure". "Shame that the emperor & courtiers of the world's largest democracy are so insecure (sic)," she tweeted. "Sorry, Haven't been elected to represent world's largest democracy to accept censorship. Here's the link. Watch it while you can," read a second tweet.
"In the age of VPN, how impactful are these bans under emergency clauses cited by the I&B Ministry to ban a BBC documentary. The more they pour scorn on it, write protest letters, the more people would be curious to watch," tweeted Shiv Sena's Priyanka Chaturvedi.
Union law minister Kiren Rijiju tweeted saying "Some people in India still haven't gotten over the colonial intoxication". "They consider BBC above the Supreme Court of India and lower the country's dignity and image to any extent to please their moral masters," read a rough translation of his Hindi tweet.
"Minorities, or for that matter every community in India is moving ahead positively. India's image cannot be disgraced by malicious campaigns launched inside or outside India," he added in another tweet.
Sources said the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has asked Twitter and YouTube to block the first episode of the BBC docu-series, which claims to have investigated certain aspects of the 2002 Gujarat riots when PM Modi was the state's Chief Minister. The Centre had slammed the series, calling it a "propaganda piece that lacks objectivity and reflects a colonial mindset".
"We think this is a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative. The bias and lack of objectivity and frankly continuing colonial mindset are blatantly visible," the foreign ministry has said.
Over 300 former judges, bureaucrats, and prominent citizens have slammed the BBC, saying it is the archetype of past British imperialism in India "setting itself up as both judge and jury to resurrect Hindu-Muslim tensions". Prominent Indian-origin UK citizens have condemned the series. Prominent UK Citizen Lord Rami Ranger said the "BBC caused a great deal of hurt to over a billion Indians."
Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak distanced himself from the series. In a snub to Pakistan-origin MP Imran Hussain, who raised the matter, he told the UK parliament that he "doesn't agree with the characterisation" of his Indian counterpart.