BBC has been biased in its India coverage

BBC has since decades been projecting the Indian Army and security forces who have been bearing the brunt of terrorism in J&K and the Northeast for decades as violators of human rights, very often at the behest of terrorist organisations through their overground representatives and separatists.

Col Anil Bhat (retd) Jan 30, 2023
BBC has been biased in its India coverage

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) aired a two-part series documentary attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure as Gujarat Chief Minister during the Gujarat riots of 2002. India’s Ministry of External Affairs condemned the controversial BBC documentary series on PM Modi, describing it as a “propaganda piece” that is designed to push a "discredited narrative". One of the nefarious objectives behind the documentary was to cast doubts on the role of Islamists in the Godhra train carnage, which claimed a total of 59 Hindu lives. At about 9:12 minutes into the programme, it claimed, “The final death toll was 59 and the cause of the fire was disputed. But at the time, Muslims were blamed.” 

Former BBC reporter Jill McGivering was then brought in to further lend credence to the insinuation. “This is in a State that has a particular history of tensions between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority. There is a history of communal violence, nasty violence………. And the concern was something like this happens, the Hindu community will feel angered that their community has been targeted,” McGivering stated while trying to portray Narendra Modi as a Hindu hardliner who avenged the Godhra killings. But by doing so, the BBC nullified the role of the extremists who set the Sabarmati Express on fire, which is not disputed in any sense, but often conveniently overlooked/ignored/suppressed by a section of the media and the leftists.

London-based consultant, Adit Kothari, active in the Indian diaspora movement, reportedly stated, “the British Indian diaspora is enraged, agitated and frustrated with the BBC’s deliberate attempts to run covert and sometimes overt malicious anti-India and anti-Hindu agendas……BBC has once called Holi a filthy festival and Jai Shree Ram a provocative slogan which has hurt our sentiments”.

Lord Raminder Ranger, well known British MP in the House of Lords, wrote a letter of condemnation to Tim Davie, BBC Director General, saying, among other things, that “the timing of the BBC documentary is sinister considering that India and the UK are working for a free trade agreement, India has assumed the presidency of G-20, and the UK has an Indian-origin prime minister…….The producer has shown a lack of vision, common sense and judgment by producing such an insensitive one-sided documentary”.

BBC's bias and mischief

In 1970, the broadcast of French film director Louis Malle’s documentary films, Calcutta and Phantom India, on British television (BBC Two) - both of which offered impressionistic sketches of everyday life in India - caused outrage amongst the Indian diaspora in Britain and with the Indian government, for what was perceived as prejudicial and negative depictions of the country. As a result, the BBC was expelled from India until 1972.

This writer who was the Indian Army spokesperson in the Defence Ministry’s Directorate of Public Relations, New Delhi from 1993 to 1998 had some first-hand experience of BBC’s "colonial bias" and at times even unprofessionalism in its reporting on Indian Army/security forces combating terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K)

In May 1995, when the Charar e Sharief crisis was on in Kashmir, the BBC showed scenes of Russian armoured personnel carriers (APCs) - which can be mistaken by the uninformed for battle tanks and MI-8/MI-17 helicopters (both held by Indian Army and Air Force) deployed in Chechnya -  but being depicted as deployed in Jammu & Kashmir and conveying how Indian Army needs tanks and helicopters to deal with a few "militants". This writer who as the Army spokesperson had taken a media team including some foreign correspondents from Delhi to Charar e Sharief needed to clarify that neither tanks nor helicopters had ever been used against terrorists in J&K or anywhere else in India. It took some effort to obtain the misleading footage and when the government confronted the BBC with it, they stated that it was a mistake. It was not a mistake but plain mischief, as even admitted by a BBC staffer on the understanding that his name was not to be disclosed.

Sometime in 1995, David Lyon, BBC’s then South Asia Correspondent based in Delhi, who approached this writer, was provided clearance and access to cover counter-terrorism operations in J&K. The Army arranged for the BBC team to accompany an Army sub-unit which had cornered a group of Pakistani terrorists who had forced their way into a house and were firing constantly at the Army troops. After some time when the Army troops had killed all the terrorists, Lyon asked the company commander, “How do you feel?”, as if the company commander should have any regrets. Lyon was reminded by the Army that the best terrorist is a dead one.

Mark Tully's work acclaimed

In 1997, BBC’s David Dimbleby made a 10-part tele-series on 50 years of India’s independence which included one part on the Indian Army’s role in nation-building. Following clearance by the Defence Ministry and Indian Army, this writer was detailed to conduct the BBC team to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, where access was arranged for the BBC television team to interact with the commanding officer (CO) of a Gorkha Rifles battalion and some of its World War II veterans, including two Victoria Cross awardees. For interviewing the CO, the team moved to the lawns of the Officers’ Mess. As the camera was being set up, this writer went to the washroom in the mess building some distance away. On returning from the washroom this writer was surprised to see the CO being interviewed sitting on a chair with the camera perched quite higher than him and just in time to hear  Dimbleby asking the CO, “How do you deal with your corrupt politicians?”, or words to that effect. This writer immediately halted the proceedings, much to Dimbleby’s displeasure and asked him how he began the interview without the spokesperson’s presence and clearance. 

This writer conveyed very clearly to Dimbleby that India’s Defence Ministry and Indian Army had been very kind in granting permission and access to do the required filming and not for asking ridiculous/totally unacceptable questions. That was not the end of the matter. The next howler from Dimbleby was a request to stage a cordon and search operation. It had to be explained to him that this too was unacceptable and that if he was so keen on portraying it, fresh permission would have to be sought from Defence Ministry and the Army for going to some unit in J&K, where such operations were conducted. They were certainly not to be “enacted” or staged.

It is relevant to mention here that Sir Mark Tully had also in 1997 made a 10-part serial on 50 years of India’s Independence for Channel 4, including one part on the Indian Armed Forces’ role in nation-building, which was widely acclaimed.

On June 27, 2021, terrorists shot dead a former special police officer (SPO), Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, of J&K Police at his home in Hariparigam Village, district Pulwama. His wife Raza Begum and daughter Rafia were also critically injured in the attack. His wife succumbed to injuries while his daughter was critical. It was reported in the media, “BBC, continuing the tradition of being Islamist apologist and having an anti-Hindu bias", referred to the terrorist in this incident as ‘charampanthi’ meaning extremist, which is distinctly different from a terrorist.

BBC has since decades been projecting the Indian Army and security forces who have been bearing the brunt of terrorism in J&K and the Northeast for decades as violators of human rights, very often at the behest of terrorist organisations through their overground representatives and sympathisers.  

(The author is a former Defence Ministry and Indian Army, spokesperson. Views are personal. He can be reached at

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