As India Tries to Block a Modi Documentary, Students Fight to See It

Mr. Modi’s defenders question why, after 21 years, the Gujarat unrest is being brought up now. After the riots, Mr. Modi’s rise within the B.J.P. and national politics was thwarted temporarily, and the United States denied him an entry visa under a little-used law intended to protect religious freedom. That order was lifted by President Barack Obama in 2014, when Mr. Modi became prime minister.

By then, the rehabilitation of Mr. Modi’s image within India was almost complete. In 2012, an investigative team appointed by the country’s Supreme Court recommended that he be cleared of all charges, and in July 2022, the court upheld that judgment. Most related cases and even convictions of others have been dropped or overturned, usually for lack of evidence.

Most of the story told by the BBC documentary would be familiar to Indians who followed the news in 2002. But a few incendiary new aspects were brought to light, including the previously unreported British investigation that found that “Narendra Modi is directly responsible” for the mass killings. Jack Straw, then Britain’s foreign secretary, told investigators at the time that the episode was “a particularly egregious example of political involvement to prevent the police from doing their job, which was to protect both communities, the Hindus and the Muslims.”

The BBC said in a statement last week that the documentary was “rigorously researched according to highest editorial standards.”

The U.S. government, which is hoping to align India as a strategic partner in its rivalries with Russia and China, signaled that it wanted no part in the controversy. Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, told reporters that he was not familiar with the content of “The Modi Question” but that he was “very familiar with the shared values that enact the U.S. and India as two thriving and vibrant democracies.”

The Gujarat nightmare may be 21 years old, but in India, the wheels of justice can grind slowly. In the city of Vadodara on Tuesday, 22 Hindu men were acquitted of charges in the killings of 17 Muslims during the days of frenzy in 2002. In the meantime, eight of the 22 accused had died.

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