On Wednesday, Twitter CEO Elon Musk told the BBC that he would comply with the law of the land in India rather than send his people to jail as the country has “strict social media laws”.
In a Twitter Spaces interview with the BBC, he was asked about the micro-blogging platform taking down links related to the BBC’s documentary on Modi and violence against Muslims in Gujarat.
“India has very strict social media laws. If it’s a choice between complying with the laws or going to jail, I’d rather comply with laws than have any of my people go to jail,” he said.
“We cannot go beyond the law of the country,” the Twitter CEO stressed.
The first part of the two-part BBC documentary series, ‘India: The Modi Question’ raised a storm not just in India but also among the diaspora across the world. After facing backlash, the Indian government banned it from being shown on social media, including Twitter, and elsewhere in the country.
Musk also said during the interview that there is less misinformation and hate speech on the micro-blogging platform since he took over.
The billionaire has labelled the BBC as a “government-funded media” organisation.
After labelling the @BBC account- which has 2.2 million followers- Musk tweeted: “What does BBC stand for again? I keep forgetting.”
However, Twitter did not label the BBC’s other accounts like BBC News (World) and BBC Breaking News.
The BBC had said in a statement: “We are speaking to Twitter to resolve this issue as soon as possible. The BBC is and always has been, independent. We are funded by the British public through the licence fee.”
According to Musk, “I do actually follow the BBC” as “they have some great material”.
In a documentary released by the British Broadcasting Corporation, it was claimed that a team sent by the British government to investigate the 2002 violence in Gujarat found Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of the state, “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to the violence.
The documentary titled “India: The Modi Question”, was; however, pulled down from YouTube, a day after its release.
The British inquiry team alleged that Modi had prevented the Gujarat Police from acting to stop violence targeted at Muslims, the BBC documentary claimed.
Speaking to the BBC, former foreign secretary, Jack Straw (2001-2006) said he was personally involved in the investigations as the data and results provided were alarming.
“I was very worried about it. I took a great deal of personal interest because India is an important country with whom we (the UK) have relations. And so, we had to handle it very carefully,” Straw told the BBC, adding, “What we did was establish an inquiry and have a team go to Gujarat and find out for themselves what had happened. And they produced a very thorough report.”
A former British diplomat, who remains anonymous described the whole event as a pogrom. To our readers, a pogrom is a term used when there is an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group. In this case, it was the Muslims, the former diplomat said.
“At least 2000 people were murdered during the violence where the vast majority were Muslims. We described it as a pogrom– a deliberate, and politically driven effort targeted at the Muslim community,” the former diplomat told the BBC.
Pertinently, on 28 February 2002, Hindu mobs who were part of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), unleashed massive violence against Muslims in Gujarat that went on for weeks killing thousands of Muslims.
About 3,000 Muslims were killed. Some 20,000 Muslim homes and businesses and 360 places of worship were destroyed, and roughly 150,000 people displaced.
The massacre was unleashed after the burning of 59 Karsevaks on board the Sabarmati Express in Godhra which was probed and declared an accident.
Modi, the current Prime Minister of India, was accused of initiating and condoning the violence, instructing police to stand by and let Hindu mobs do acts of violence against Muslims.
Strong evidence links the Modi administration in Gujarat to the carefully orchestrated anti-Muslim attacks.
Hindu mobs had detailed lists of Muslim residents and businesses, and violence occurred within view of police stations.
An independent media, Tehelka, used hidden cameras to capture some of the accused speaking openly of how the attacks had Modi’s blessings.
In response to Indian authorities’ restricting access to the documentary, the Committee to Protect Journalists called for access to the documentary to be restored.
“The Indian government’s order to social media platforms to block a BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an attack on the free press that flagrantly contradicts the country’s stated commitment to democratic ideals,” Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, had said in a statement.