Assam passes resolution against BBC docu amid uproar

Guwahati: The Assam Assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution seeking action against the BBC for its documentary on Gujarat riots — ‘India: The Modi Question’.

The state Assembly witnessed an uproar over the controversial documentary, with Opposition demanding screening of the documentary inside the House.

Raising the issue through Private Members’ resolution, BJP MLA Bhuban Pegu alleged that the BBC has questioned India’s free press, judiciary and its democratically-elected majority government in the documentary.

However, the resolution has been finally passed in the Assembly after Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and ruling BJP MLAs supported Pegu’s claim.

The members from the Opposition bench opposed the resolution claiming that it has no relation with the state.

CPI-M MLA Manoranjan Talukdar said, “The topic of this resolution does not relate to Assam. None of us has watched it. I guess Pegu has watched it and that is why he brought this resolution.”

He added that to have a discussion on the resolution, there must be screening of the documentary in the Assembly.

Three Opposition MLAs — Sherman Ali, Karim Uddin Barbhuiyan and Akhil Gogoi — joined Talukdar and demanded the screening of the BBC documentary for all legislators.

In the resolution, Pegu said: “It is disturbing to note that even 75 years after India’s independence from the colonial rule, the BBC seeks to continue to act as the true arbiter of India’s internal issues, through its dubious journalism.”

He also claimed that the documentary broadcast by the BBC in February appears to be a calculated attempt at recreating communal disharmony in India by broadcasting triggering visuals of violent crimes while repeatedly highlighting the purported involvement of religion and religious differences.

“So as to preserve the sovereignty and the foundation of India, I request this August House to adopt a resolution demanding the “strictest possible” action against the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) “malicious and dangerous agenda to instigate religious communities and flare religious tension” and malign India’s global standing by airing the malicious two-part documentary,” Pegu opined.

However, Debabrata Saikia, Leader of the Opposition, claimed the resolution would have an impact on free speech and the press — two key rights protected by the Indian Constitution.

According to Saikia, the BBC published a documentary on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in 2010 and Narendra Modi asserted in 2013 that the UK-based news organisation was more trustworthy than Doordarshan and All India Radio.

“The then Congress government did not ban it or did not unleash the ED and CBI after the media for writing negative news,” he added.

On the other hand, Supporting Pegu, the Assam Chief Minister said, “The subject is related to Assam also as BBC questioned the Indian judiciary. We live in a globalised world. The timing is very important. The release date could have been before the SC verdict as well.”

“Did the BBC criticise Patharughat or Jallianwala Bagh?” he asked.

At Patharughat in Assam’s Darrang district, 140 people were killed and hundreds of others were injured as the police fired on the peasants who were protesting against increased land tax on January 28, 1894.

Sarma also said that the Supreme Court cleared Narendra Modi of all charges after reviewing all evidence related to the Gujarat riots in 2002.

As the resolution was passed by a voice vote, there was a ruckus between the BJP and Congress legislators, as all Opposition MLAs staged a walkout raising slogans against the resolution.

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