May 27. 2024. 8:35

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Tax authority raids on BBC offices in India continue into second day

Raids by Indian tax officials on BBC offices across the country have entered their second day, weeks after the station aired a documentary that questioned the secular credentials of prime minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government.

BBC sources said the ”survey” by tax officials at the broadcaster’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, which began on Tuesday morning, continued overnight into Wednesday and could continue beyond that.

They said two floors of the BBCs Delhi office had been sealed off and officials spent Tuesday night searching its computers. They were said to be looking for traces of tax evasion, diversion of profits and overall financial transgression.

During their raid, over 40 officials in the two locations reportedly searched for the word ”tax” on BBC computers after asking its employees to log into them. It is not known if they were able to detect any traces of wrongdoing.

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BBC headquarters in London is believed to have asked its staff in India to co-operate with the tax officials, but refrain from answering any queries regarding their salaries and personal monetary status.

The tax authorities were yet to issue an official statement on the BBC raids, but Anurag Thakur, federal Information minister declared, without elaborating, that no one was above the law.

Other BJP spokesmen criticised the BBC at length on local news channels, calling it ”corrupt” and accusing it of spouting ”rubbish” and of supporting anti-India forces.

Their ire stemmed from the two-part documentary India: The Modi Question, aired in January on BBC2 in the UK. It re-examined allegations that Mr Modi, as chief minister of western Gujarat state, was complicit in instigating communal riots there in 2002.

More than 1,200 people, mostly Muslims were killed by Hindu mobs allegedly supported by the local police in the violence that lasted over four months. The documentary also questioned the BJP’s anti-Muslim outlook, accusing it of persecuting India’s minority community since assuming federal power in 2014.

Using emergency powers under India’s information technology rules, Mr Modi’s BJP government blocked the documentary from social media platforms.

Satish Jacob, the BBC’s former deputy bureau chief in Delhi called the tax raid an act of intimidation by ”misusing’ government agencies”.

He said the Modi government no longer cared about the optics of such an action, which was nothing but an attempt to ”muzzle an international news channel after all local Indian television channels had been browbeaten into submission by the authorities”.

The Editors Guild of India also criticised the BBC raids, calling them part of a ”trend of using government agencies to browbeat and harass media organisations ... critical of government policies or the ruling establishment”.