Screening of BBC documentary on PM Modi (image courtesy: India Today)

Muslim students groups and political groups are screening the BBC propaganda documentary on PM Modi to insinuate that he, as a head of the state, let the riots, which took place after Muslim mob burned down a train killing 59 pilgrims returning from Ayodhya, happen. This is happening at universities, some funded by the Central Government.

The documentary by the British state-funded broadcaster is an attempt to make PM Modi appear ‘anti-Muslim’ ahead of the 2024 general elections. As usual, the same is being used by opposition leaders in India. It is almost as if they have accepted that they could not defeat Modi on their own and would rather have foreign intervention coupled with ‘dara hua Musalman’ narrative to try and defeat him in 2024.

However, there is more than the politics behind this propaganda that should worry us. The radicalisation of Muslim youths. The Students Islamic Organisation (SIO), members of whom have been involved in mobilising mobs for the anti-CAA protests that eventually led to anti-Hindu riots in Delhi in February 2020, were found screening the documentary at the Hyderabad Central University. Asif Tanha, one of the members of SIO, was booked for violence in Delhi.

The SIO was founded by Jamaat-e-Islami in 1982 after the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) broke away from it in 1981. A Livemint report from 2008 puts the relationship between the two organizations in this manner, “Blood brothers they may be, but the groups have charted conflicting courses, both in principle and actions. While SIMI is largely underground after the government crackdown, SIO is a gradually swelling student revolution in the making, taking Islam beyond the parodied stereotypes of fundamentalism and violence. Its mission: to prepare students, Muslims and non-Muslims, for reconstruction of a peaceful India on the basis of Islamic principles.”

Last week, the Centre said in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court that activists of the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) continue to function secretively and receive funds. It added that the organisation’s “objective of establishing Islamic rule in India can, under no circumstances, be permitted to subsist”.

The Centre pointed out that every new recruit of SIMI is administered an oath which asserts that they would operate for ‘independence of humanity’ and ‘establishment of Islamic system in my country’. The Centre also added that its “constitution not only disclaims, questions, and intends to disrupt the sovereignty and integrity of our country; but also cause disaffection against India and the Constitution of India”.

The blood brothers, so to say, are now screening the propaganda documentary which is not only one-sided but factually incorrect and based more on hearsay and confirmation bias. And while India is a democracy and one is all for free speech, there is a darker side to screening such documentaries for impressionable young people.

In 2016, the Delhi Police had told a court in a charge sheet filed against three Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists that the Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar riots videos were shown to them to motivate them to join the terror ranks. JEM chief Maulana Masood Azhar was main inspiration for them to join terror organisations. One of the JEM terrorist, Sajid, had admitted that when the radicalised youths and terror aspirants met at a house in December 2015, they were told about ‘persecution of Muslims during Gujarat riots and Muzaffarnagar riots’.

Sajid had suggested that the trainee terrorists listen to speeches of Maulana Masood Azhar for ‘inspiration’. These speeches were about violent jihad in India in retaliation to demolition of disputed structure ‘Babri Masjid’ on Ram Janmabhoomi. These speeches also talked about so-called atrocities on Muslims in India and ‘liberation’ of Kashmir. These videos of Maulana Masood Azhar infused a sense of jihad in trainee jihadis.

The screening of riots videos was carried out to radicalise Muslim youth and inspire them to join terror activities. Muslim student organisations then screening more such propaganda videos which cry ‘Muslim persecution’ to young, impressionable youth, especially Muslims. What could go wrong?

This is not it. OpIndia had earlier reported how the videos from 2002 Gujarat riots were also used for forced religious conversion. While speaking to OpIndia, one Prakash Vasava (name changed), a member of the tribal Vasava community narrated how he was lured to convert to Islam. “We were told that in the Godhra carnage, (PM) Modi and (HM) Shah actually burned alive Muslims inside the train and then claimed that Hindus were killed. They told us that there was no temple at the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya and that it will always be a mosque,” Vasava said about indoctrination by Haji Fefdawala, one of the men accused of forced conversion racket.

At a time when polarisation is at its peak and propagandists and Islamists, well-funded by foreign forces and break India forces, are at the forefront of spreading communal discord under the garb of ‘journalism’, these one-sided propaganda screenings only add the fuel to the fire. An average Muslim, living his life, is suddenly made aware of his Muslim identity by the propagandists and that eventually ends up being his only identity and that often acts as the first step towards radicalisation. The ‘educated and influential intellectual Muslims’ will dog whistle and the average ones will end up being foot soldiers in this jihad.

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