BBC: Voice of the World or Voice of Slander ?

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Once upon a time, the BBC was the voice of the world. I remember, as a young journalist covering India, that we all listened to the BBC radio, as we knew that it was more truthful than the All India Radio or Doordarshan. Indeed when Indira Gandhi was assassinated, it was the BBC that first broke the news.

Great power is often misused. I reported on the valley of Kashmir from 1989 to 2000, and Mark Tully, the Chief of Bureau of BBC India was the guru to us all – western as well as Indian journalists. That means that what the BBC uttered, everybody would repeat. Unfortunately, Tully then kept saying that the Indian Congress Government (not the BJP, mind you) was lying when it was accusing Pakistan of training, arming and financing Kashmiri militants, and sending them back across the Line Of Control. But it made sense to me, and I was probably the only one who wrote so, both in my dispatches for Le Figaro, France’s National Daily, and articles for Indian newspapers, such as The Hindustan Times or The Indian Express. I was also a witness of the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Hindus – 350,000 of them chased out of their ancestral lands and houses, for no other reason that they belonged to another religion than Islam. There again, the BBC kept quiet, and Mark Tully to this day, has not acknowledged this near genocide.

I have often criticized Narendra Modi, but the true story of the Godhra riots has never been told by the BBC. It started because 59 Hindus, 32 of them innocent women and children, were burnt to death like animals in the Sabarmati Express, because they had just come back from Ayodhya. This was the spark that ignited a long pent-up anger, and Hindus from the Shudras to Brahmins, came down in the streets in uncontrollable fury, and started killing muslims. I am not going to condone this type of absolute violence, but let me say two things. One, that it is not Mr Modi who perpetrated these crimes with his own hands ; and two, that if my wife or my daughter had been burnt to death by criminals, I would have also gone down and killed. The only question is : did Narendra Modi wait nearly 24 hours before calling the army – he must have also been extremely moved emotionally by the Sabarmati holocaust. Of course the BBC never mentioned this first extremely important piece of gory news, the Sabarmati Express genocide, and jumped immediately to the wrong conclusion that Mr Modi ordered his people to kill mercilessly.

The second part of the BBC documentary deals with more recent events, like the removal of Article 370 in 2019. Again, intentionally bad journalism. The Kashmiri Muslims not only evicted all Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists from the Valley of Kashmir, but also Nehru made a provision that no citizen from other part of India could own a business in Kashmir, buy a house and settle there. This did not stop the Kashmiri Muslims from pouring all over India, from Delhi to Pondicherry, and cornering today the souvenir/carpet/ shawls/papier maché market, selling on the sides, drugs or dealing in slush money. This was an injustice that Mr Modi set right – and he must be praised for it. I must also say that Kashmiri Muslims today portray themselves as victims, but I have seen with my own eyes that they started a war against India in the name of Islam.

This said, I disagree with the banning by the Indian Government of the BBC series “The Modi Question”. The BJP Media Cell is always on the back foot and does not know how to handle press matters. What is needed, when you deal with western media, is a concise, cartesian and detailed reply, like the one I have given above, rather than emotional reaction that reinforces the western media’s cliché of Narendra Modi being a dictator.

There have been many scandals plaguing the BBC in recent times, including pedophilia and sexual misconducts. Last week, the BBC chairman, Richard Sharp, who himself is a multimillionaire, acknowledged that he had facilitated a loan of 800 000 British pounds, (a bit more than 8 crores Indian rupees) to the ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It is the same Boris Johnson, who, in gratitude, named Richard Sharp (who has offered to resign) Chairman of the BBC. The ‘colonial mindset’ accusations by the BJP spokespersons against the BBC, appear to me also a little cliched. The young journalists who today work at BBC have no idea, or even interest, in what their great great grand-fathers did in India. I would rather state that the BBC, like CNN of the New York Times, or Le Monde, possess a great ignorance of modern India, and that they hold ancient and outdated prejudices as absolute truths.

Finally, let me say that 99% of the BBC-India staff is indian. Why, instead of accusing BBC London, can’t the Indian government deal firmly with its own citizens? One of the most insidious and anti-indian BBC journalists is Geeta Pande – who is a Nepali. In China, or even in Indonesia, she would have long ago been escorted back to her country. Firmness begins at home.

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François Gautier
François Gautier was born in Paris. In the early eighties, he began freelancing in India for different publications and finally ended up being the correspondent in South Asia, for the Geneva-based “Journal de Geneve”, then one of the best international newspapers in Europe. François has written several books: “Un autre Regard sur l’Inde” (Editions du Tricorne, Geneva-Paris), “Arise O India” (Har Anand, 1999), “A Western journalist on India” (Har Anand, 2001), “India’s Self Denial” (Editions Auroville Press, 2001), “Swami, moine hindou et PDG” (Editions Delville, Paris, 2003, 8000 copies sold), “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a Guru of Joy” (India Today Book Club, 2003), “La Caravane IntÈrieure” (Les Belles Lettres, Paris, 2005), “A New History of India” (Har Anand, 2008). François is now the Editor-in-Chief of the Paris-based La Revue de l’Inde and a Director of a book collection on India with the same publisher.

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