New Delhi: British High Commissioner Alex Ellis said on Wednesday that “good friends” may generally disagree in response to a question about income tax raids on BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai after the broadcast of a documentary about the Gujarat riots in 2002.
In an interaction organized by the Ananta Centre, Ellis described the BBC as a highly respected media house. India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) accused the BBC of displaying its “colonial mentality” by broadcasting the documentary.
“The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a globally respected institution and broadcaster whose news material I consume every day. Second, all organizations must obey Indian law. The BBC is talking to the Indian authorities about it,” he said.
Stating that he would not share the content of his discussions with the Indian authorities, Ellis noted: “But good friends can also disagree. I think it’s okay to disagree sometimes.” He added that he was making a general point.
Income Tax officers raided BBC offices located in Delhi and Mumbai. They alleged that various irregularities were detected, including the non-disclosure of certain remittances as income in India, as well as the non-payment of taxes on those remittances.
The move came about a month after the BBC broadcast its two-part documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The first part of the documentary reported on a UK government investigation that found it “directly responsible” for violence against Muslims that occurred in Gujarat in 2002.
MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi had criticized the BBC documentary as a “propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative”. “The bias, the lack of objectivity and, frankly, an ongoing colonial mindset, is blatantly visible.” he said.
As for the damage to the Indian high commission facilities and the removal of the Indian flag by pro-Khalistani protesters, Ellis characterized it as a “symptom of extremism” and noted that it posed a “risk” in any country. .
“There is no disagreement. What happened in the Indian High Commission is not right. It is a symptom of extremism. In general, extremism is a risk in any country,” she said.
The British envoy expressed his full understanding of the anger in India over the High Commission vandalism, adding that he would be equally agitated if such an incident occurred at the British High Commission.
After the London incident, India summoned the highest ranking diplomat present on the UK high commission. Security barriers were also removed outside the UK high commission and the high commissioner’s residence.