Multiple organisations, mostly owing allegiance to the Left and the Congress, have scheduled Republic Day screenings across Kerala of the BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat communal riots and Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the Centre has been going out of its way to suppress.
Culture Collective Manaveeyam Street Library, an alternative platform for study and research, screened India: The Modi Question, at Manaveeyam Veedhi, a cultural street in Thiruvananthapuram, on Wednesday, 25 January. However, only the first of the two-part series was screened.
DYFI, SFI, Youth Congress, and the Minority Cell of the Congress have announced plans to screen the documentary at various places across the state as part of Republic Day celebrations on Thursday, 26 January.
The BJP has demanded that the state government prevent the screening of the documentary, which the Ministry of External Affairs has said lacked objectivity and was propaganda.
On Tuesday, 24 January, Yuva Morcha activists tried to prevent at least one screening, leading to a scuffle with Youth Congress workers in Thiruvananthapuram.
The documentary was screened on college campuses and cultural spaces on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Anil Antony resigns
The documentary also led to a resignation in the Congress. Anil K Antony, the son of former defence minister and former Kerala chief minister AK Antony.
He resigned from all party posts after he received “intolerant calls” to retract a tweet he had posted condemning the documentary.
Anil was attached to the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee’s (KPCC) Digital Media Cell and the AICC’s Social Media and Digital Communication Cell.
Taking to Twitter, Anil Antony said he was resigning from all posts following “intolerant calls to retract a tweet, by those fighting for free speech. I refused. @facebook wall of hate/abuses by ones supporting a trek to promote love,” he tweeted, a clear dig at Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra.
I have resigned from my roles in @incindia @INCKerala.Intolerant calls to retract a tweet,by those fighting for free speech.I refused. @facebook wall of hate/abuses by ones supporting a trek to promote love! Hypocrisy thy name is! Life goes on. Redacted resignation letter below. pic.twitter.com/0i8QpNIoXW
— Anil K Antony (@anilkantony) January 25, 2023
Earlier, on Tuesday, he tweeted that despite large differences with the BJP, those who support and place the views of the British broadcaster and former UK foreign secretary Jack Straw, the “brain behind the Iraq war” (involving the US-led coalition in 2003) over Indian institutions, are setting a dangerous precedent.
Speaking to journalists in Delhi, Anil on Wednesday said there were many reasons for his resignation, but the main one was the attacks on him on social media.
He said that his “neutral” tweet was misinterpreted and shown in a bad light.
“I am not leaving the party, but I am not taking up any party positions,” he added.
Immature, says Tharoor
The Congress came down heavily on Anil following his tweet against the documentary, saying those with different opinions should seek other avenues.
Hours after Anil submitted his resignation, senior Congress leader VD Satheesan said the former defence minister’s son had adopted a stand contrary to the proclaimed policies of the party.
Earlier in the day, senior leader Shashi Tharoor also rejected his views and termed them “immature”.
“I feel that this is an immature stand… Because the sovereignty of our country cannot be affected so easily… will it be affected if a foreign documentary is screened?…whether our national security and sovereignty are so fragile to be affected by a documentary?” he asked.
Tharoor, however, said Anil, who had handled the digital communications of the party for some time, was a “good person” and he had not discussed the BBC documentary issue with him.
Anil, considered close to Tharoor, had thanked the senior leader in his resignation letter.
Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh drew parallels with Anil and Chandy Oommen, son of former chief minister Oommen Chandy.
A Tale of Two Sons of Two CMs from the same state.
One is a Bharat Yatri and walking tirelessly, mostly barefoot to unite our nation in the #BharatJodoYatra
The other is reveling in his day in the sun today having ignored his duties to the Party and the Yatra.
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) January 25, 2023
Resignation inevitable: Youth Congress
Youth Congress state president Shafi Parambil also rejected Anil’s views and said India’s sovereignty is not a bubble that could be burst so easily.
The country’s sovereignty has a strong foundation which was built through the freedom struggle and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
“So, we are not ready to accept or believe that criticisms against Modi are against India… Anil’s resignation was inevitable ideologically. Because, he cannot uphold such a view standing within the framework of the Congress party,” he said in Palakkad.
The stand adopted by the Congress party on the issue would not be diluted with the statement of an individual, Parambil, also an MLA, said.
However, BJP state chief K Surendran welcomed Anil’s resignation, saying it was a setback for the anti-national approach of the Congress leadership.
“His resignation was an example for the situation that patriots cannot work in the Congress party,” he alleged, adding that Anil became unpopular for the party now because of his opposition to the encroachment of foreign powers on the integrity, unity, and sovereignty of the country.
Governor Khan questions timing
Meanwhile, Governor Arif Mohammad Khan on Wednesday questioned the timing of the release of a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying it came close on the heels of India assuming the presidency of the G20.
The Governor came out against the documentary even as several organisations in Kerala took the lead to screen it on college campuses and major cultural spots. The two-part documentary, India: The Modi Question, was on the 2002 Gujarat riots and Modi.
Khan also expressed surprise over people attaching importance to the opinion of a foreign documentary maker, “that too our colonial masters”, than the Supreme Court verdict.
“So many judicial verdicts, including that of the highest court of the land, the timing, all these things have to be taken into consideration. This is a time when India has assumed the G20 presidency,” the Governor told reporters.
“Why has this particular time been chosen to bring out this scurrilous material? You cannot ignore these things and particularly when it is coming from a source that ruled us for over 200 years,” Khan added.
(With inputs from PTI)