Income tax officials searched BBC India offices

In New Delhi, India, police officers stand outside a building housing BBC offices as income tax officials search t...

Indian income tax authorities have conducted a search of BBC offices as part of their investigation.

Weeks after the broadcaster aired a documentary critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the UK, searches have been conducted in New Delhi and Mumbai.

The prime minister's involvement in anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002, when he was the state's chief minister, was the subject of the documentary.

According to the BBC, it was "fully cooperating" with law enforcement.

A brief statement followed that said, "We hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible.".

India's government has made an effort to prevent people from sharing India: The Modi Question online, calling it "hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage" with a "colonial mind-set," despite the fact that it was only broadcast on television in the UK.

When students gathered to watch the movie last month in Delhi, police detained some of them.

The search on Tuesday, according to opposition Congress party president KC Venugopal, "reeks of desperation and demonstrates that the Modi government is afraid of criticism.".

"We strongly condemn these forms of intimidation. This undemocratic and autocratic behavior cannot continue, he tweeted.

The documentary follows Mr. Modi's entry into politics and his ascent through the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hierarchy to his appointment as Gujarat's chief minister.

It draws attention to a previously unreleased report that the BBC obtained from the UK Foreign Office and which casts doubt on Mr. Modi's conduct during the religious riots.

The rioting started the day after a Hindu pilgrim train was set on fire, leaving dozens of people dead. In the ensuing violence, over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died.

According to the Foreign Office report, Mr. Modi "directly" contributed to the "climate of impunity" that encouraged the violence.

The report was a component of an investigation that Jack Straw, the UK's then-foreign secretary, had ordered. The aim of the riots, according to the statement, was to drive Muslims out of Hindu areas, and "the extent of violence was much greater than reported.".

Mr. Modi has consistently denied the allegations made against him and has not expressed regret for the riots. A Supreme Court panel also stated in 2013 that there was not enough evidence to bring charges against him.

The Indian government was given the opportunity to respond to the documentary, but it declined, the BBC reported last month.

The broadcaster claimed that the movie was "thoroughly researched" and that "a wide range of voices, witnesses, and experts were approached." It also claimed that "a range of opinions, including responses from people in the BJP," were featured in the movie.

Imran Hussain, a member of parliament from the UK, questioned UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last month in Parliament about whether he agreed that Mr. Modi was directly to blame for the violence and "what more did the foreign office know of his involvement in this grave act of ethnic cleansing.".

While adding that "he did not agree with the characterization" of Mr. Modi, Mr. Sunak stated that "we don't tolerate persecution anywhere.".

In India, it is not uncommon for organizations that are thought to be critical of the government to be targeted.

Amnesty International was forced to cease operations in India in 2020 after charging that the administration was conducting a "witch-hunt" against human rights organizations.

Last year, Oxfam and other regional non-governmental organizations were also searched.

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