'The surprise onslaught on BBC offices in India by tax officials has incited a tremendous outcry from social media, as it is viewed as yet another retaliatory act by the government for the scathing documentary on Indian Prime Minister Modi.'
As per the particulars published by Indian media outlets, over 50 Indian officials executed a raid on the BBC's offices situated in New Delhi and Mumbai on Tuesday. The police barricaded the New Delhi office, which spans two floors, and several officers were deployed outside to preclude any ingress or egress. Furthermore, there are rumblings that the phones belonging to the journalists were confiscated during the onslaught.
The sudden attack on the BBC offices has triggered a sense of disquiet in India, particularly in light of the fact that this comes on the heels of the British media house broadcasting a divisive documentary that analyzed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ascension and his role in the Gujarat Riots of 2002.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge in a tweet said, "Time and again, there has been an assault on freedom of Press under Modi Govt. This is done with brazen & unapologetic vengeance to strangulate remotely critical voices. No Democracy can survive if institutions are used to attack Opposition & Media".
"This raid/survey is so imbecile, childish, and beyond even silly. As hosts of G-20 what are we telling the world that rather than an emerging great power we are an insecure power? Whichever bright spark though this one up is Prime Minister Modi’s worst enemy,” Manish Tewari former union minister for Information & Broadcasting said in a tweet.
Comrade Sitaram Yechury said, "First ban BBC documentaries. No JPC/enquiry into Adani exposures. Now IT raids on BBC offices! India: ‘Mother of democracy’?".
AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh reacted sharply to the surveys in his tweet and said, "Modi ji has reached the heights of dictatorship. Hitler's dictatorship came to an end, Modi's dictatorship too, will end".
"Since agencies doing these Valentine Day 'Surveys' how about @IncomeTaxIndia, @SEBI_India & @dir_ed conduct one on govt's most valued sweetheart Mr. A?" Mahua Mitra, wrote in her tweet , tagging SEBI and the Enforcement Directorate.
Amidst the political ruckus, a significant amount of mudslinging has emerged with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accusing the Indian National Congress of hypocrisy, by drawing parallels with the historical event when Indira Gandhi, the former Indian Prime Minister, had also imposed a ban on BBC.
BJP leaders have been quick to point out the ban on BBC imposed by the Indira Gandhi-led government during the 1975 Emergency period, where press censorship was extensively used as a tool to silence dissenting voices. The move by the BJP has raised eyebrows, with many questioning the relevance of drawing parallels with a historical event that was imposed in a vastly different context.
BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia took a jibe at the BBC and called it Bhrasht Bakwaas Corporation (corrupt rubbish corporation) while speaking to reporters in Delhi. He added that the BBC should not “spew venom” while operating in India and the organisation indulges in anti-India propaganda.
Despite the BJP's counter-accusations, the raid on the BBC offices has sparked a debate on the freedom of press in India, with many calling for a greater sense of accountability and transparency from the government.
Press Club Of India: President Umakant Lakhera and secretary general Vinay Kumar
Editors Guild Of India: Seema Mustafa, Ananth Nath & SriRam Pawar
DigiPub: Dhanya Rajendran & Abhinandan Sekhri