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BBC programme on Gujarat angers VHP

Shyam Bhatia in London | January 02, 2004 14:42 IST
Last Updated: January 03, 2004 15:27 IST

The UK head of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has attacked the BBC for its anti-Hindu bias following a radio programme which supported the thesis that the post-Godhra anti-Muslim riots that swept Gujarat were premeditated.
"The riots were a spontaneous reaction by an outraged population," said Dr Girdharilal Bhan in his letter to the producers of the programme 'Bilal's return to Gujarat', which was broadcast on New Year's Day as part of the prestigious Crossing Continents series on BBC Radio Four.

The programme tracked the return to Gujarat of British-Indian national, Bilal Dawood, who lost his brother, his cousin and a friend of the family in the anti-Muslim riots of February 2002.

Crossing Continents quoted Teesta Setalvad, convener of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal, as saying: "What is unprecedented about the carnage was the level of state sponsorship."

The programme pointed out that both national and international human rights groups have placed much responsibility for the killings at the door of Gujarat's BJP Hindu nationalist government.

In his letter to the BBC, Dr Bhan said: "It is the strong belief in the British Hindu community that the British media, in particular the BBC, is strongly biased against Hindus. I know the BBC strongly repudiates this. However, we have good reasons to make our claim and can cite many examples of one sided and biased reports."

He went on to say:  "Gujarat riots were deplorable and condemnable. All Hindus, individuals and organisations, have condemned the loss of life and limb and human misery.

"The riots however would not have happened if 58 men, women and children had not been burnt alive in a premeditated
and cold-blooded manner. The riots were a spontaneous reaction by an outraged population.

"There are those who say the burning alive of Hindus was not premeditated. Some even go so far as to say the train passengers had it coming because they were provoking local Muslims and that the setting alight of the train was the handiwork of Hindu extremists.

"On the other hand they claim that the riots that followed were premeditated. This is mind boggling stuff. If journalists want to believe it, that is up to them. It simply lowers their standing."


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