Two BBC offices in India were raided by tax authorities on Tuesday, weeks after the broadcaster aired a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Indian officials said they were carrying out a survey of the offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, investigating possible tax irregularities. The BBC said that it was “fully co-operating” with authorities.
Last month the BBC released a two-part documentary series in the U.K. called India: The Modi Question, exploring the premier’s role in the anti-Muslim riots that took place in Gujarat in 2002, when he was the state’s chief minister. The violence left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly Muslims.
The documentary prompted widespread rebuke from the country’s Hindu nationalist government. Kanchan Gupta, senior adviser to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, called it “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage.”
The documentary was not released in India but the government attempted to block people from sharing it online. Gupta ordered its takedown from social media sites including YouTube and Twitter. Both sites complied with the request.
Home and office raids have increasingly been used as a tool under Modi’s government when confronted with criticism.
In 2021 a raid was carried out against the Indian branch of the anti-poverty organization Oxfam, one officials claimed was conducted for tax survey purposes. Other raids have targeted journalists, human rights groups, and local media outlets as part of an ongoing crackdown against free expression.
The BBC documentary revealed a previously unpublished U.K. government report about the Gujarat riots that said Modi was “directly responsible” for the “climate of impunity” that gave rise to the violence.
Modi has denied accusations that he did not do enough to stop the riots.
After the tax raid on Tuesday Gaurav Bhatia, a spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), accused the BBC of being “the most corrupt organization in the world.”
“India is a country which gives an opportunity to every organisation,” he said, “as long as you don’t spew venom.”
K.C. Venugopal, general secretary of India’s main opposition Congress party, criticized the raid in a tweet.
“We condemn these intimidation tactics in the harshest terms. This undemocratic and dictatorial attitude cannot go on any longer,” he said.