Income tax surveys at BBC offices continue for third day
A senior advisor with the information and broadcasting ministry claimed the searches were unrelated to the BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Searches by the Income Tax Department at the Mumbai and Delhi offices of British broadcaster BBC continued for the third consecutive day on Thursday, PTI reported. The searches which had begun around 11.30 am on February 14 have been going for nearly 60 hours now.
The searches, which the officials have dubbed a “survey operation”, were initiated less than a month after the BBC released a two-part documentary that examined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in the communal riots that took place in Gujarat in 2002.
On Wednesday, Kanchan Gupta, a senior advisor with the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, claimed in a statement to news channel Mirror Now that there is “no connection” between the BBC documentary and the income tax searches.
Officials had told PTI on Tuesday morning that the survey was part of a tax evasion investigation into the business operations of the BBC in India. In a survey, the department only covers the business premises of a company and does not search homes and other locations of its promoters or directors.
BBC World Service director Liliane Landor, in an internal memo sent to employees, said that if they are asked to meet officials, they should answer their questions honestly and directly, Reuters reported.
“Questions about the BBC’s structure, activities, organisation, and operations in India are within the remit of the investigation and should be answered,” she said. “It goes without saying that you should not delete or conceal any information on any of your devices.”
The broadcaster has also asked its employees to not disclose information about the searches, according to CNN. Some staff members were also asked to stay overnight at the offices.
The United Kingdom government has not yet released any official statement about the action. But global media rights advocates and India’s opposition leaders have condemned the searches, saying the timing of the action just weeks after the documentary aired “smacked of intimidation”.
But Bhartiya Janata Party national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia described the BBC as the “most corrupt organisation in the world” and accused the broadcaster of engaging in “anti-India propaganda”.
The BBC documentary
The BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question, alleges that a team sent by the British government had found that Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat when the 2002 riots took place, was “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to the violence against Muslims.
It also reveals for the first time that a report commissioned by the United Kingdom government had stated that the riots had “all the hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing”. According to the documentary, the report had found that Modi had prevented the police from acting against the rioters.
The Indian government, however, dismissed it as “a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative”. It also blocked videos and tweets sharing links to the documentary using emergency powers available under the Information Technology Rules, 2021.