Actions in New Delhi and Mumbai come weeks after vetoing the reproduction of a documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Officials from the Indian Income Tax Department searched offices of the BBC in New Delhi and Mumbai this Tuesday (14.Feb.2023). The information was released by the press office of the British broadcaster’s news sector.
The operation was carried out weeks after the Indian government vetoed the reproduction of the documentary. “India: The Modi Question” in the country, in January 2023.
On Twitter, the BBC released a statement with an update on the situation in India:
“Income Tax Authorities remain at BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai. Many employees have since left the building, but some have been asked to remain and continue to cooperate with ongoing investigations.
“We are supporting our team during this time and continue to hope that this situation will be resolved as soon as possible.
“Our production and journalism continues like this and we are committed to serving our audience in India.”
According to news agency Reutersan official at the Indian Income Tax Department, who declined to be named, said a “reliable search operation was underway” and that the agency could not provide further details.
The British broadcaster’s production questions the role of the country’s current prime minister, Narendra Modi, in the Gujarat uprising in 2002. At least 1,000 Muslims were killed at the time. According to Kanchan Gupta, from the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, not even excerpts from the documentary can be shown in the country. He classified it as a “disguised hate propaganda”. He stated that the production reproduces the “colonial mentality” and BBC.
Narendra Modi was ruling the province of Gujarat in 2002 when a train fire killed 59 Hindus. The local government initially blamed Muslims for the incident. International organizations consider that the number was underestimated.
Taruan Gulati, a senior lawyer interviewed by Reuters, explained that an inspection carried out by the Department of Income Tax allows employees to collect all the information they deem useful. According to the expert, these operations allow any documentation to be withheld.
Gulati also said that an inspection differs from a search and seizure operation.
Gopal Krishna Agarwal, spokesperson for the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), which Modi is part of, said that the institutions work independently and that the tax department is “within the law when examining tax compliance”.
“India is a vibrant democracy where no one is above the law”said the spokesperson.