BCC recently released a documentary on India’s controversial right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi rattling Modi and his ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The documentary’s first episode titled “India: The Modi Question” which was released in the UK on 17th January drew a sharp reaction from the Modi government.
Modi Government Blocks the Documentary in India
The Modi government moved swiftly to block the documentary in India. Proving right the critics of IT Rules, 2021, the Modi government’s Ministry of Information & Broadcasting invoked emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021 to order YouTube to take down all the videos that had published the first episode of the documentary. Orders were also issued to Twitter to take down all the tweets that had posted the link to the documentary. Both YouTube and Twitter complied with the orders, removing all the posts and videos flagged by the government.
The government alleged that the documentary was found to be “undermining sovereignty and integrity of India, and having the potential to adversely impact India’s friendly relations with foreign states”, which allowed for the invocation of the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021. The government also alleged that the documentary questions the credibility of the Supreme Court of India and attempts to sow divisions among different communities while also making unsubstantiated allegations regarding the activities of foreign governments in India.
Earlier India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson dismissed the documentary as a “propaganda piece that lacks objectivity and reflects colonial mindset”. The spokesperson also questioned the timings of the release of the documentary.
The documentary’s first episode produced by the BBC tracks Modi’s “first steps into politics”- his association with the right-wing Hindu extremist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), his rise through the ranks of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and further his appointment as Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat in 2001 till 2014. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi’s involvement in and his response to a series of communal riots in 2002 remains a source of controversy.
The documentary highlights a previously unpublished report, obtained by the BBC from the British Foreign Office, which raises questions about Modi’s actions during the religious riots. The report claims that Modi was “directly responsible” for the “climate of impunity” that enabled the violence.
The report cited by the BCC was part of an inquiry ordered by the then foreign secretary Jack Straw. The reports say that “the extent of violence was much greater than reported” and “the aim of the riots was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas”.
Jack Straw is heard in the documentary saying, “these were very serious claims that Mr Modi had played a proactive part in pulling back police and in tacitly encouraging the Hindu extremists. That was a particularly egregious example of political involvement to prevent police from doing their job to protect the Hindus and the Muslims.”
Modi’s Role in Gujarat Riots of 2002
It is the documentary’s highlight of the Gujarat riots of 2002 that has rattled the Modi government.
The Gujarat riots of 2002 claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people. Most of those killed were Muslims. Modi is alleged to have instigated the riots and further prevented the police and the army from taking any action to stop the riots. Most of the reports published on the Gujarat riots by the Indian media as well as the international media point out Modi’s direct role in facilitating the riots. It has been claimed that Modi gave a free hand to Hindu extremists to kill Muslims and the aim was to purge Hindu localities of Muslims.
Modi has rejected these accusations. Further, in 2013 an investigation approved by the Indian Supreme Court absolved Mr. Modi of complicity in the rioting. Based on that finding, a court in the state of Gujarat found that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.
Action Taken by Foreign Countries against Modi
Like the above-cited British Foreign Office report, there were many countries that were convinced of Modi’s role in the killing of Muslims during the riots. Concerned countries acted against Modi at different levels.
Modi was banned entry into the U.S. for more than a decade for his role in the riots. In 2005, Modi became the only person ever to be denied a U.S. visa under the 1998 law on violations of religious freedom. The U.S. State Department invoked a little-known U.S. law passed in 1998 that makes foreign officials responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom” ineligible for visas. The ban on Modi’s travel to the U.S. was revoked by the Obama administration in 2014 after he became the prime minister of India.
A Permanent Stain on Modi’s Career
Modi may have achieved great things in his political career, but the stain of the Gujarat riots is permanent on his career.
Modi loves the camera. He loves advertising and branding himself. Modi puts his picture on everything. He loves hearing his voice. However, ever since he became the prime minister of India, he has never given an unscripted interview to the media. He has also never held a press conference in India or abroad. It has been claimed that Modi does not want difficult questions about his attitude towards the Muslim minority of India thrown at him.
When Modi became the prime minister of India, Indian liberals were hopeful that Modi had changed. They were wrong in their assessment that Modi as a prime minister would be inclusive. However, after Modi’s eight years as a prime minister now, he has not changed his attitude towards Muslims. As of now, Muslims are increasingly persecuted by his government.
This author highly recommends that you watch the BBC documentary on Modi. Its first episode has been released here (if you are outside the UK watch it here or use VPN). The next episode will be available on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, at 21:00.
Israel Backlashes on Netflix over the Jordanian Film Farha
Farha is a Jordanian movie directed by Darin Sallam depicting the Israeli-Palestinian ethnic cleansing setting at al-Nakba 1948 or the catastrophe. It is the most brutal coming-of-age movie about a 14-year-old Palestinian girl called Farha living in a Palestinian village. She dreams of attending school and pursuing an education with her best friend Farida in the city while other girls are excited about their friends’ marriages. Nevertheless, things went as unexpectedly; the Israeli gangs barbarically attacked the village, committing massacres against the Palestinian villagers. While waiting for her father to return, she watches through a small hole in the wall as Israeli soldiers execute a family including two young children and a baby. This brutal scene makes Israel backlashes against Netflix over the Jordanian Film Farha.
Sallam has said that the movie is based on the true story of a friend of her mother, who lived years later as a refugee in the Al Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria and recalled her experience as a young girl during the Nakba. Sallam describes the film as a means of helping process a painful memory of that time. The 15-minute scene has angered Israeli officials and the pro-Israelis as well.
Israel is Furious
The film has caused Israel deep chagrin regarding the 15-minute scene. Several Israeli officials blasted the portrayal of the 1948 Nakba in the movie. “It is crazy for Netflix to release a movie that aims to incite hatred and make false excuses against Israeli soldiers,” Avigdor Lieberman said. He stated that the Israeli soldiers would not allow anyone to damage their reputation. Lieberman said that the film is provocative and full of lies against Israeli soldiers. Furthermore, Lieberman revoked state funding to a theatre in Tel Aviv’s suburb of Jaffa that screened the film, with the “goal of preventing the screening of this shocking film or other similar ones in the future.
The campaign also included downvoting of the film’s ratings online and a social media campaign. It calls on people to cancel their Netflix subscriptions. “After more than two years of subscription, I have decided to cancel it due to Netflix’s support for the anti-Israeli film.” one streamer said. “Netflix supports such a shocking and unrealistic scene that is not in line with Israeli and Jewish morality at all. I cannot subscribe to a site that has endorsed such a shocking scene in which [Israeli] soldiers are portrayed as vile as murderers without heart and without any humanity,” another subscriber added.
What is actually “Crazy” is their reaction toward the Film. They do not want people to see it, through all means, and under any circumstances. Consequently, Palestinians’ right to process their suffering through art is being denied unfairly by shutting down screenings of this film.
Palestinian Right to Process Pain through Art
Israel has tightly orchestrated and controlled its own narrative of its birth. Before the military opened its archives of the 1948 war, it issued a policy forbidding the release of any documents. These documents include detailing the forced deportation of Palestinians; any human rights violations, including war crimes, committed by Israeli forces. They also included anything that might “harm the [Israeli Defense Forces]’s image” or expose it as “devoid of moral standards.”
This is neither the first nor the last time that movies depict Palestinians’ suffering through art. Many masterpiece works were made previously including Al-Taghriba Al-Filistinia, The Tower, Inch’Allah, and most notably “Tantura”. Yet, this is almost the first time to air a Palestinian movie on a global platform like Netflix to go trending. We cannot deny that the more the situation complicates, the more the film spreads, affecting prevailing the truth and exposing the heinous crimes of the Israeli thoughtless soldiers.
The movie represents a quantum leap in the artistic field regarding the Palestinian cause. Ironically, from a tiny hole in the wall, the movie exposed Israel to its heinous massacres in 1948, causing chagrin and anger in Israel. The massacre in the movie is nothing compared to what happens nowadays, especially in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. On the same day Israel denied and condemned streaming the film by Netflix, they brutally shot dead the Palestinian youth Ammar Mufleh at point blank. How sarcastic!
see more on this/Israel is hiding crucial demographic facts about Palestinian
Truth is Unsilenced
It is also a story that Palestinians have never stopped telling. Yet, there is something unique about hearing it from the perpetrators themselves. “The Palestinians know the story. They’ve been talking about it, and the world has heard from them, but the world believes the Israeli side a lot of the time, and Israelis do not admit to this story,” said Schwarz. “This is a story of Israel looking the other way.” “We robbed them of their history,” he said. “We not only ethnically cleansed them, took them out, denied their return, but we also robbed them of the true story. Schwars added, “We robbed them of the right to remember, and that is terrible.”
Most importantly, In “Tantura,” a movie named after a Palestinian prosperous fishing village near Haifa that was wiped off the map during the Nakba, Schwarz sets out to investigate the massacre of an unknown number of villagers that was carried out just a week after the establishment of the Israeli state. Releasing Tantura, especially these days while the Palestinian cause is taking over the scene in Qatar World Cup 2022 as well as the Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received an official mandate to form a new Israeli government, is precarious for Israel’s image, consequently.
See more/ Israel Has No Right to Exist if Palestine Has No Right to Exist
Schwarz says that people were killed in different ways and different places in the village. It took about two weeks to bury them. There are testimonies of bodies that have not been buried for 8 to 10 days. In a dehumanizing language, over 90-year-old Israeli soldiers confess to committing heinous massacres in Tantura. Actions cannot be reversed but the evidence is present. For more on this click here.
Farha is currently streaming on Netflix
Despite Israel’s backlashes on Netflix over Farha, it is now available to millions of people to watch on Netflix with a rate of 8.6. Despite attempts to shut down its production, there is a solid case to deepen hatred over terrible events that happened. The film should stand as an acknowledgement of the other side of a historic story about the creation of Israel. A brutal story that people have ignored or denied for too long. You can support the truth by watching the movie, rating it, and sharing the truth even with a trembling voice. Eventually, the truth will prevail.
Myanmar’s Genocide on the Rohingya Muslims: An Inspiring Interview with a Heroic Refugee
Authors Note – This week’s article is a special edition as I have collaborated with a Rohingya refugee living in Cox’s Bazaar camp in Bangladesh after fleeing the Myanmar genocide. His name is Jamal Hossain. I have also collaborated with Rohingyatographer Magazine, a unique project created by a team of talented photographers based in Cox’s Bazaar. They have kindly allowed me to share some of their thought-provoking photography. A special thank you to both collaborations.
The above image is by © Sahat Zia Hero – The man is Hafsan, an 82-year-old Rohingya Islamic scholar.
Over One Million Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar
Rohingya Muslims are still waiting for justice and the protection of their human rights after the Myanmar military launched a brutal regime of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State on the 25th of August, 2017. The Myanmar military began a sweeping campaign of massacres, rape and arson against the Rohingya population. Approximately 750,000 Rohingya fled their homes and sought refuge in precarious, flood-type camps in Bangladesh.
Over 1.1 million Rohingya refugees have fled ongoing violence in Myanmar. Many stateless Rohingya live in the world’s largest refugee camp, Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. Many Rohingya say the camp conditions and safety have deteriorated as the humanitarian crisis prolongs. In 2021, aid groups sought nearly $1 billion in donor funding as shortages have grown acute.
Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to neighbouring countries by land or boat for many decades due to ongoing violence and persecution. Five years later, the Myanmar government has still not been held accountable for crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. Moreover, an UN-mandated fact-finding mission on Myanmar says abuses and rights violations in Rakhine “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law”.
Who are the Rohingya?
The Rohingya are an ethnic group who lived for centuries in Myanmar until the government committed genocide on their population. The Rohingya are known as the “world’s most persecuted minority”.
Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as part of its 135 official ethnic groups. Since 1982 they have been denied citizenship in Myanmar, effectively rendering them stateless. Nearly all the remaining Rohingya in Myanmar live in the western coastal state of Rakhine. It is one of the poorest states in Myanmar, with ghetto-like camps and a lack of essential services and opportunities. Refugees are not allowed to leave without the government’s permission.
Read also: Rohingya Muslims: Citizens Of Nowhere.
An Interview With Jamal, A Brave Rohingya Refugee
Who is Jamal?
While researching and writing this article, I had the privilege of interviewing Jamal, a Rohingya refugee currently living in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Jamal is twenty-years-old and is originally from Myanmar, Rakhine state. In 2017, Jamal and his family fled to Bangladesh and are currently living in an uncomfortable makeshift camp. I am helping Jamal to get his story across to the international community. Jamal works at a local news agency, “The Territorial News”, highlighting the Rohingya histories, cultures and traditions.
The image below shows Jamal helping a 75-year-old Rohingya refugee, Maher Khatun, who is suffering from serious health complications in the camp. The refugees have minimal access to health care services or supplies. Despite Jamal having very little, he talks about how he often brings her to the nearest shop to feed her milk and juices.
Jamal’s Unforgettable Nightmare
On the 25th of August 2017, Jamal and his family fled Myanmar and walked for five days straight until they arrived in Bangladesh. They started living in makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazaar while the World Food Programme provided them with essentials.
Jamal speaks of how he fled from the gunshots and the Burmese military as they eradicated his people.
“My journey was horrible and an unforgettable nightmare. It took me and my family a long time to escape Myanmar and to get safe and sound to Bangladesh. On our way here, we wandered like prey being hunted, hiding in paddy fields and forests, starving for days, and feeding on raw leaves or weeds. Those fields were full of wounded souls, crawling among corpses and blood, just trying to make it towards the safe zone. I often thought: “today is my last day in this world”, but luckily God was beside me and he wished for me to be alive.”Jamal, Rohingya refugee living in Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp.
“They Planted Nightmares in Me, but I Harvested Dreams”
Jamal began teaching children as a freelance volunteer in the refugee camps. Rohingya refugees must stay within the confinement of the camps. In addition, only informal education is allowed for children under the age of 15 years.
Jamal has lost everything his home, country, citizenship, friends, and education. Although they planted nightmares within him, Jamal used this trauma to harvest new dreams for himself. Remarkably, Jamal is brave and optimistic despite everything he has endured. Jamal hopes that one day he will settle down in a peaceful country. In the future, Jamal wishes to become a teacher and continue helping people.
The Lingering Trauma & Deplorable Camp Conditions
Five years later, the Rohingya still face many challenges in Cox’s Bazaar camps. Fires have ravaged many camps, destroying many makeshift homes and personal belongings. Furthermore, severe monsoon floods have made conditions considerably worse. The Rohingya faced COVID-19 challenges with very few resources.
Since August 2017, human rights organizations have interviewed hundreds of refugees living in Bangladesh. They described brutal scenes where Burmese soldiers systematically killed and raped villagers before torching their homes. During the brutal crackdown, the security forces killed thousands of people and burned down nearly 400 villages.
There has been a rise in gender-based violence and reported sexual violence in the camps. A climate of impunity prevails as no formal justice system or accountability measures exist.
Most Rohingya refugees live in camps with population densities of less than 15 square metres per person. This is below the minimum international guidelines for refugee camps.
Moreover, Bangladesh has severely restricted the Rohingya’s livelihoods, movement, and education. Hence, Bangladesh has closed community-based schools, arbitrarily destroyed shops, and imposed new travel restrictions.
International Court of Justice: Genocide Case Against Myanmar
In November 2019, Gambia filed a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The case concerns Myanmar’s alleged genocide against the ethnic Rohingya population in Rakhine State. The Gambian government alleged that the Myanmar military committed the genocidal acts of “killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, inflicting conditions that are calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcible transfers intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part.”
The ICJ hearings are the next step in this landmark case to break the cycle of violence and impunity. According to Human Rights Watch and the Global Justice Centre, this case could widely scrutinize Myanmar’s longstanding international crimes.
What is the Rohingya Refugees’ Future?
Myanmar Coup 2021
Prospects for the Rohingya people to return to their land have only grown dimmer following the Myanmar coup in February 2021. This has re-ignited conflicts in Myanmar and worsened the existing humanitarian crisis. The coup has further destabilized Myanmar triggering a nationwide civil disobedience movement.
Since the coup, junta security forces have carried out mass killings, torture, sexual violence, and arbitrary arrests of the Rohingya. Rights groups claim this could amount to crimes against humanity. Additionally, over 1,500 Rohingya were killed since the coup was established. The Rohingya who are currently living in Rakhine State are facing systematic abuses. These abuses amount to crimes of apartheid, persecution, and deprivation of liberty.
Repatriate or Resettle?
The international community must help either repatriate or resettle the Rohingya people and end this ongoing humanitarian crisis. Moreover, the people in Bangladesh have already suffered enough. Thus, the international community must compensate them for their generosity in welcoming millions of refugees.
Jamal interviewed different community members at the refugee camp who spoke about wanting different outcomes for their futures. Some Rohingya want a dignified return to their land with equal rights and protection measures established. However, whether these protection measures could be effectively introduced remains uncertain. Other community members discuss their wishes to resettle in a third country with new opportunities and fundamental rights.
The international response to Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing regime was fragmented and halting. Word leaders preferred quiet diplomacy that achieved little over strategic measures to place real pressure on Myanmar. We must establish a cohesive international response to protect the Rohingya people’s fundamental rights effectively.
We hope for Jamal and all Rohingya refugees that one day they will have a safe and peaceful place to live. As Nelson Mandela once said, “to deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”.
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