British must shed colonial hangover The Statesman 31 Jan 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


British must shed colonial hangover The Statesman 31 Jan 2023

          The BBC documentary on PM Modi and the Gujrat riots have been under discussion for the past fortnight. While the Indian government has rightly banned the documentary and its links in India, the fact that the BBC published its foreign office’s illegal investigation into the Gujrat riots displays its anti-India bias. British parliamentarians adopt anti or pro-India postures based on the configuration of their constituency. Hence, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary who ordered the inquiry and blamed PM Modi, did so solely because his electorate in Blackburn comprises 35% Muslims. It displays the narrowmindedness of British parliamentarians.

The BBC and its Hindi network, BBC Hindi are historically known to project India in poor light. Some of BBC Hindi’s topic discussions include whether men should urinate standing or sitting as also why do men wear dirty underwear, a rather poor standard of journalism. In Oct 2022, BBC Hindi stated that Diwali cleaning increases burden on Indian women. 

          BBC’s racist policy increases as India becomes economically and diplomatically far more powerful than Britain. In Sept 2021, BBC headlines termed the growth of the Indian economy as ‘problematic.’ While it claimed that the lockdown in Europe during COVID saved millions of lives, on India its headlines read, ‘India Covid-19: PM Modi did not consult before lockdown.’

          The BBC was expelled from India in 1970 for producing two documentaries, Calcutta and Phantom India, both of which were ‘perceived as prejudicial and negative depictions,’ by the then Indian government. It was again expelled during the emergency in 1975. Post the release of the movie, Kashmir Files, BBC Hindi tweeted ‘this film is a stunt for the 2024 elections.’ In 2019, post abrogation of article 370, the BBC published a report claiming over 10,000 protested in Srinagar against the government’s action, whereas the centre claimed there were only about 20. It also falsely accused the government of opening fire.  

After the BBC published a report accusing the Yogi government of falsifying figures on law and order in March 2021, the UP police issued crime details to bust BBC’s false propaganda. Such has been the BBC’s reputation that in the UK a satirical cartoon mentions, ‘If you don’t stop lying, you will grow up to be a BBC reporter.’ 

In March 2020, the Prasar Bharati Chief Executive, Shashi Vempati, rejected BBC’s offer to preside over a BBC conducted event in Delhi citing false and one-sided reporting of riots in Delhi by their network. Vempathi, in his rejection letter, asked the BBC to, ‘respect the sovereignty of nations.’ This was an insult to the BBC.

The current documentary covers riots which occurred two decades ago. Had the documentary stuck to facts, it would have been acceptable. Ignoring India’s independent judicial decisions as also the investigation by a supreme court appointed and monitored Special Investigation Team, the documentary relied on its illegal and half-baked investigation conducted by members of its embassy in Delhi, thereby mocking the Indian governance model.

There are reports that Indian employees of the BBC are tasked to produce anti-India papers, hoping that these will have greater acceptability. The BBC may claim to be independent, but the reality is that it works closely with its foreign office to project the country’s viewpoint. It displays levels of jealousy against India’s rise by members of the British administration.  

Britain’s anti-India stance is evident even today. The Pak army chief, General Asim Munir, will be addressing the 5th joint UK-Pak stabilization conference, cochaired by his British counterpart, titled, ‘Regional Stability in South Asia: the return of geopolitics and other challenges,’ from 05-08 Feb. Evidently, Kashmir will be the major subject, commented on in British media, despite them having no locus standi, other creating the dispute. Post abrogation of article 370, while the US and France refused a discussion on Kashmir in the UNSC, Britain joined China and Kuwait in demanding for it on multiple occasions.  

The UK Parliament has discussed Kashmir, Citizens Amendment Act and many other government polices over which they neither have a say nor a right to comment. Simultaneously, Britain provides succour to rich criminals who escape from Indian law. Britain still believes it can dictate to its erstwhile colony, India, whereas the scenario is the reverse. It is the UK which is desperate to sign a Free Trade Agreement, not the other way around.  

The Indian parliament on the other hand has never deliberated on Britain’s anti-immigration policies, racism, as also despatching illegal immigrants to Rwanda, all of which can be embarrassing subjects. India’s presidency of the G 20, global leaders rushing to India, defying Britain and the US by maintaining an independent foreign policy on Ukraine has only conveyed India’s diplomatic independence irking them further.

The BBC is aware that the documentary would have little global value as the US statement on it displayed, however they are hoping to provide fodder to the Indian opposition as also disrupt India’s internal cohesion, which is their true intention. Politically there would be no damage within India. The BBC does so because Indian Doordarshan has never produced documentaries highlighting the crimes of the British in India as also across the globe. The day it commences doing so, it could tarnish their global reputation and could even result in a closure of the Commonwealth, which anyway comprises of nations looted by the British.

India provides its foreign diplomats in Delhi excess freedom of movement thereby enabling them to conduct illegal investigations on Indian affairs. Similar reciprocal freedom is rarely provided to our diplomats abroad. It is time India toughens its policies and limits movement of diplomats based in Delhi in tune to what is provided to its own.      

While India has moved beyond Britain, the erstwhile colonial masters have yet to accept the fact that a nation like India has outshone it in every sphere. Currently, while India doesn’t need Britain, London cannot do without the Indian market, if it seeks to overcome its ill-planned Brexit, a fact admitted to by Rishi Sunak in the British Parliament. It is time India gives back in the same coin by producing documentaries covering dark periods of England’s reign over its colonies.