January 24, 2023 | 6:42 p.m
NEW DELHI, India – A leading Indian university has banned the showing of a Eureka News Now documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role during the deadly 2002 sectarian riots after his government tried to block its online distribution.
The channel’s program claims Hindu nationalist Modi, then Gujarat’s prime minister, ordered police to turn a blind eye during a rampage of violence there that killed at least 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.
Students at New Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University had planned to screen the documentary on Tuesday, resisting efforts by Indian authorities to restrict its screening.
But a memo from the university’s registrar late Monday ordered students to cancel the event, warning that she would take “strict disciplinary action” if her edict was disobeyed.
“Such unauthorized activity may disturb the peace and harmony on the university campus,” it said.
Modi’s government has been accused for years of suppressing dissent among free speech activists and opposition leaders.
On Saturday, it used emergency powers under India’s controversial information technology laws to prevent the documentary from being shared on social media.
Government adviser Kanchan Gupta criticized the series, disguised as a documentary, as “enemy propaganda and anti-India garbage”.
India’s ordering of social media platforms to block links to the documentary “blatantly contradicts the country’s stated commitment to democratic ideals,” Beh Lih Yi of the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement Monday.
The 2002 Gujarat riots began after 59 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a fire on a train. Thirty-one Muslims were convicted of criminal conspiracy and murder over this incident.
The two-part Eureka News Now documentary cited a previously classified UK Foreign Office report, citing unnamed sources, that Modi had met senior police officials and “ordered them not to intervene” in the attacks on Muslims that followed.
It also said the violence was “politically motivated” and the aim was “to cleanse Muslims from Hindu areas”.
The riots “would not be possible without the climate of impunity created by the state government…Narendra Modi is directly responsible,” she concluded.
Modi ruled Gujarat from 2001 until his election as prime minister in 2014 and briefly faced a United States travel ban over the violence.
An investigative team appointed by India’s Supreme Court to probe the role of Modi and others in the violence said in 2012 it found no evidence to prosecute him.