Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has firmly distanced the UK government from the negative characterisation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a new BBC documentary series.
During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons this week, a Pakistani-origin Labour MP raised the claims from the first part of the controversial series entitled ‘India: The Modi Question’ and questioned the Indian leader’s alleged link with communal riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002.
Sunak responded: “The UK government’s position on that is clear and long standing, and it has not changed.
“Of course, we do not tolerate persecution anywhere, but I am not sure that I agree at all with the characterisation that the hon. gentleman has put forward.”
He was referring to Bradford East MP Imran Hussain question if Sunak agreed “with his Foreign Office diplomats that Modi was directly responsible” for the clashes 20 years ago, as characterised by the BBC Panorama programme aired this week.
A senior Labour shadow minister distanced the Opposition from its MP’s question, which he said did not reflect the party’s stance. The issue has been raised with Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer’s office as well.
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The Indian government branded the documentary as a "propaganda piece with bias" and reflective of a “colonial mindset” when questioned about it during a media briefing in New Delhi.
"The documentary is a reflection on the agency that has made it; it's a propaganda piece, there is bias and a continuing colonial mindset. Can't dignify such a film," Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told reporters.
Meanwhile, several members of the Indian diaspora have been taking to social media to express their anger over the documentary.
Professor Manoj Ladwa, Founder and Chair of UK-headquartered India Global Forum (IGF), condemned the BBC series as a media “lynch job” which would ultimately fail to detract from the huge positive strides being made by India under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi.
Professor Ladwa said: "The BBC's Panorama programme on Prime Minister Modi is nothing but a hashed-up piece of old propaganda.
“British tax-payers money would be much better spent on shining a light on the remarkable transformation India is going through under Prime Minister Modi's leadership in areas such as climate change and energy transition, rapid poverty alleviation, financial inclusion and digital adoption at an unprecedented scale, and the empowerment of women. No media lynch job can detract from the huge positive strides the world's largest democracy is making."
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