A YouTube channel run by filmmaker Rakesh Sharma, whose documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots created a stir when it was released in 2004, has been terminated by the video-sharing website. Sharma’s channel featured more than two dozen video clips from Final Solution, his critically-acclaimed documentary that sharply criticises Narendra Modi, who was Gujarat chief minister during the violence, and the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party government for the communal riots in 2002.
On Friday, Sharma’s YouTube channel RakeshFilms was blocked with a notice from the website that said, “This account has been terminated due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy against spam, deceptive practices, and misleading content or other Terms of Service violations.”
The filmmaker said his channel was perfectly functional three days ago, and that he had not received any email, message or warning from the website about any kind of violation. “I will certainly demand an explanation from YouTube for their unilateral action. They should have reached out to me if there was any issue,” he added.
Sharma said he was not surprised by the move. “Since my film was released in 2004, there have been concerted efforts to prevent it from reaching the public realm,” he said. “This move is part of the same campaign to whitewash Mr Modi’s image and erase his stained past.” He added that the trend was evident on social media, where “specific accounts are targeted and suspended”.
At the time of its release, Final Solution was initially denied a censor certificate. The Central Board Of Film Certification had cleared the documentary only after intense public outcry.
To ensure that the film reached the masses, Sharma has been encouraging people to circulate pirated copies and upload its clips on YouTube. In early 2014, when Modi was campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, Sharma uploaded several clips on YouTube of the future prime minister’s provocative speeches, which had been edited out of his film’s Final Cut.
Most of these clips, he said, are available on his private Vimeo channel, as well as on the YouTube channels of dozens of others who chose to share his videos. “It is sad that YouTube and Google are playing super-censor on behalf of the government, but my film will never be buried,” Sharma said.
In response, YouTube has said: “YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit videos that contain nudity or sexual content, violent or graphic content, harmful or dangerous content, hateful content, threats, spam, misleading metadata, or scams. And we remove flagged videos that violate these guidelines. We have a flag underneath every video on YouTube, and we review content that anyone flags to us 24 hours a day. We also act quickly to remove material that violates our policies. Repeat offences result in the termination of the YouTube channel. “