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NEW DELHI: Indian tax authorities raided the BBC's New Delhi and Mumbai offices on Tuesday, weeks after the broadcaster aired a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sectarian riots in 2002.

Police sealed off the New Delhi office, which occupies two floors, and half a dozen officers were stationed outside to prevent people from entering or leaving.

A BBC employee based in New Delhi told AFP that the tax raid was in progress and that officials were "confiscating all phones".

An official at the scene said: "There is government procedure happening inside the office," declining to disclose their department.

Another BBC staffer based in Mumbai confirmed the broadcaster's office in India's commercial hub was also being raided.

India's Income Tax Department could not be reached for comment by AFP.

Last month, the broadcaster aired a two-part documentary alleging that Hindu nationalist Modi ordered police to turn a blind eye to sectarian riots in Gujarat state, where he was premier at the time.

The violence left at least 1,000 people dead, most of them minority Muslims.

India's government blocked videos and tweets sharing links to the documentary, using emergency powers under its information technology laws.

Government adviser Kanchan Gupta had slammed the documentary as "hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage".

University student groups later organised viewings of the documentary despite campus bans, defying government efforts to stop its spread.

Police arrested two dozen students at the prestigious Delhi University after stopping a screening there in late January.

A special investigative team appointed by India's Supreme Court to probe the roles of Modi and others in the violence said in 2012 it did not find any evidence to prosecute the then chief minister.

Press freedom

Press freedom in the world's biggest democracy has suffered during Modi's tenure, rights activists say.

India has fallen 10 spots to 150 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders, since he took office in 2014.

India blocks BBC documentary on PM Modi from airing in India

Media outlets, international rights groups and foreign charities have also found themselves subjected to scrutiny by India's tax authorities and financial crimes investigators.

In 2021, Indian tax authorities raided a prominent newspaper and a TV channel that had been critical of the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, triggering accusations of intimidation.

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Shakir Feb 14, 2023 03:53pm
UK should put sanctions on India and investigate Rushi.
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TimeToMovveOn Feb 14, 2023 04:29pm
@Shakir, Please be thankful instead, India sends 43% of life-saving medicines to your country.
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