|Sportstar Aces Awards 2023 | VOTE FOR TOP CATEGORIES

BBC documentary on PM Modi | Public screenings in Kerala irks BJP

BJP takes out marches across State against the screening, demands ban

January 24, 2023 07:23 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:21 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

The screening of the BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question, organised by the Ernakulam District Congress Committee at Menaka Junction in Kochi on January 24, 2023.

The screening of the BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question, organised by the Ernakulam District Congress Committee at Menaka Junction in Kochi on January 24, 2023. | Photo Credit: R.K. Nithin

Political temperatures escalated in the State on Tuesday over the public screenings of a damning BBC documentary purportedly critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The BJP-led Central government had recently censored the politically touchy news production in purported “national interest”.

Student and youth organisations owing allegiance to the CPI(M) and the Congress defied the “Central ban” and provoked the ire of the BJP by holding public screenings of the controversial news production on college and university campuses and city centres across the State.

The CPI(M) and the Congress have seized on the BBC documentary to propagandise the BJP’s alleged attempts at “social silencing and systematic depluralising of India’s secular polity.”

The police block Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha activists who took out a protest  march to the Manaveeyam Veedhi in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday where Youth Congress workers were screening the BBC documentary on Gujarat riots

The police block Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha activists who took out a protest march to the Manaveeyam Veedhi in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday where Youth Congress workers were screening the BBC documentary on Gujarat riots | Photo Credit: S. MAHINSHA

The politically loaded screenings led to tense stand-offs between BJP and rival party workers.

Protest marches

In Thiruvananthapuram, the police used water cannons to disperse BJP workers who attempted to disrupt a public screening at Poojappura grounds.

In Kochi, police prevented BJP workers from storming screening venues at Maharaja’s and Government Law College.

In Kozhikode, BJP workers held a march to the Police Commissioner’s office demanding a ban on screenings. In Kannur university, students screened the documentary defying a ban by authorities.

The palpable political tension has prompted the police to deploy in strength to prevent any further escalation of violence.

Demand for ban

The contentious screenings drew strident condemnation from BJP leadership. Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan, urged Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to ban the screenings aimed at “turning Kerala into a strife-torn State”.

In an open letter to Mr. Vijayan, BJP State president K. Surendran said the documentary merely regurgitated baseless allegations dismissed as false by the Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, the BJP found a lone voice of support in Anil K. Antony, KPCC digital media chief and son of veteran Congress leader A.K. Antony. He tweeted that the BBC’s views undermined India’s sovereignty.

Mr. Antony’s position has gone down poorly with the Congress leadership. It drew criticism from Youth Congress president Shafi Parambil. Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan sent an emphatic political message to doubters in his party by attending a public screening in Kochi.

Cong., CP(M) bid

Congress and CPI(M) aspire to use the documentary to spotlight BJP’s “attempts to shut out dissenters from public discourse by stifling free speech”. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and the party’s State secretary M. V. Govindan have lend support to the public viewings of the BBC documentary.

The Congress and CPI(M) also hope to galvanise public opinion against the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2024 by using the BBC documentary as an agitprop to push damning questions about the Gujarat riots again into the forefront of Kerala’s political discourse.

Top News Today

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.