India Gen Z grapples with Modi’s dark past in clashes over new documentary


SRINAGAR, India — When the lights go out. A crowd of young people turn on their smartphone flashlights. They turned them towards the seat of a motorbike. Where student activist Aishi Ghosh stoody.

“They will close one curtain, we will open hundreds,” he shouted.

Students gathered at Jawaharlal Nehru University in the Indian capital. New Delhi for an outdoor screening of a new BBC documentary. That criticizes Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And his role in the deadly 2002 riots in Gujarat when he headed the western state. the minister

After the power outage — blamed by Ghosh on the university administration. Which has not commented on it — students instead streamed the film on their phones and laptops. Either through VPNs or by sharing proxy links to archived footage through encrypted apps.

Authorities in India, the world’s largest democracy. Have gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent people inside the country. From viewing the film since the first episode aired in Britain last week. Invoking emergency powers to order the removal of any clips or links posted. Social media platforms including YouTube and Twitter. For Indians frustrated by what they see as growing authoritarianism under Modi. And his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Watching the documentary has become a symbol of protest.

Many young people in India have no memory of the riots, in which more than a thousand people, Muslims, were killed. Modi has denied involvement in the attacks. And India’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling last year that he should be cleared of all charges.

More than half of India’s 1.4 billion people are under the age of 30. And they are becoming an important political force in the 2024 general elections. And beyond, Ghosh told todaystrendnews News.

“It is very important for the BJP to control this mind,” he said.

India’s foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi called the BBC film “India. The Modi Question” a “propaganda piece designed to push a particular infamous narrative. And said it reflected a “colonial mentality”.

In a statement, the British broadcaster said the film had been “researched. And the Indian government declined to comment on the allegations.

The first part of the documentary is about Modi’s political career before becoming Prime Minister. Gujarat was rocked by riots in early 2002 when Hindu mobs. Blaming Muslims for the death of 59 Hindu pilgrims in a train fire, retaliated. Against the Muslim community.

According to the film, British officials said the violence bore. Characteristics of ethnic cleansing” and that Modi. As chief minister, was “responsible” for allowing it to happen.

Harsh Mander, who quit his job as a civil servant to become a rights activist. After the Gujarat riots, said they “showed us a different India than. What we had promised ourselves at independence” in 1947.

“Today’s generation needs to look at what happened in 2002 and make an informed choice,” he added. “Do you want this India?”

For years, Modi was barred from traveling to the US for his role in the riots. Only being invited after becoming prime minister in 2014. The second half of a BBC documentary airing in Britain this week focuses on his leadership. Since then.

Critics say Modi has promoted discrimination against India’s Muslim minority. And silenced dissent, especially since his re-election in 2019. And government demands to remove content on Twitter have increased. Last year, India fell to 150th position out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday. That the U.S. supports press freedom and other rights that strengthen democracy.

“This is a point in our relationship globally,” he said at a regular briefing. “It is a point that we have made in India as well.”

India’s opposition lawmakers also pushed back. Sharing links to documentaries that stopped the work.

“Sad, not elected to represent the world’s largest democracy to accept censorship,” Mahua Maitra. A parliamentarian from the centre-left All India Trinamool Congress, said on Twitter. “Here’s the link. Check it out when you can.”

But Kanchan Gupta, a senior adviser to India’s information. And broadcasting ministry, called the image “anti-India rubbish” and said YouTube.

Both platforms have grappled with issues of freedom of speech in India. Twitter sued the Indian government last year for sweeping regulatory changes. That give officials more power to demand the removal of online content. They deem threatening to the state, the same changes. Now being used to censor BBC documentaries. The future of the lawsuit under the company’s new owner, Elon Musk, is uncertain.
“First I’ve heard,” Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, said. On Twitter this week when asked about the BBC’s censorship of the film in India. “It’s not possible for me to fix every aspect of Twitter globally overnight. While still running Tesla and SpaceX, among other things.”
Kunal Majumder, Indian representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Said officials had weaponized an emergency provision of the law. Known as the Information Technology Act, against legitimate journalism.
“The government has responded to the documentary. As propaganda and part of [a] colonial mentality,” he said. “How does this qualify as an emergency?”
‘We made a plan’
Nivedya PT, a student from New Delhi, was 2 years old at the time of the Gujarat riots. He and others defied warnings from his university, Jamia Millia Islamia. Not to show the BBC film because “knowing about our history is very important to us,” he said.
“You cannot block a documentary on the grounds that it is propaganda. This is not right,” Nivedya said. “We have freedom of expression in this country, and we can watch any documentaries and movies we want. So we devised a plan.”

A screening was scheduled for Wednesday night.

That morning, Nivedya said, university staff chased. Her around campus and confiscated her phone. She and three other students were picked up by the police in the afternoon.
Students protested near the campus that night demanding Nived’s release. Clashing with police officers armed with tear gas and riot gear. He said that five students were also arrested from the protest.
The campus remained closed the following day. Students told todaystrendnews News, and police maintained a strong presence in the area.
Nived was arrested on the eve of Republic Day. A national holiday that marks India’s formal adoption of its constitution. Which guarantees freedom of expression.
“We are being denied our basic rights,” Nivedya lamented after her release. “I’m not sure how democratic India is anymore.”

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