Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Deepanjana Pal - Ban on BBC rape documentary: It's the idiocy of our MPs that 'defames India' // Everyone Must See 'India's Daughter,' Says Nirbhaya's Father

... two years after that gangrape, the government roared — not in support of Nirbhaya or the hundreds and thousands of men and women who have stood up to be heard against the misogyny raging through India; but to shut down the conversation. Why? Because Mukesh Singh, one of the accused in the Nirbhaya gangrape, makes India look bad.
Women are being raped in cabs, they're being discriminated against, and they rarely have the luxury of feeling safe. Meanwhile, the budget for national rape crisis centres has been slashed from Rs 244.48 crore to Rs 18 crore and the government would rather talk about paperwork, find ways to blame the Congress party and concoct desperate rants about BBC "defying" the Indian government.

NB - Our establishment is more concerned about India's 'image' - than about the reality of women's lives, the reality of violence against women. The word 'image', incidentally, which is a favourite with our media and politicians, means an appearance, a perception, something other than the reality. Why are we so bothered about our 'image'? Why not change our social reality rather than manipulate its 'image'? The questions we need to ask ourselves are these:
Are the views expressed by the prisoner prevalent in Indian society or not?
Can we fight such views by pretending they do not exist?
Whom are we trying to fool by banning such documentaries? Ourselves or the world?
Do government spokes-persons expect us to stop thinking altogether?
But the Government's disgraceful flapping is understandable. Mr Modi and his associates are artists of imagery,  maybe they think that this 'bad image' can now be made to disappear by the use of executive power. Unfortunately for them, their politics of deceit is powerless over the power of truth. Dilip

By the time you read this, Leslee Udwin's India's Daughter will have had its British premiere. This writer can't claim to have an opinion on the documentary because like all Indians, she hasn't seen it (yet). Unlike some esteemed members of the Indian polity, she doesn't have the super powers of assumption that are required to rant against India's Daughter the way journalist Arnab Goswami and politician Meenakshi Lekhi have in parliament and on news channels. However, what this writer can say with certitude is that the minister for parliamentary affairs Venkaiah Naidu was on the money when he said, "This is an international conspiracy to defame India."

Though we might be at cross-purposes, Mr. Naidu and I. Because he's talking about Udwin talking to Mukesh Singh, who drove the bus during the Nirbhaya gangrape of 2012, and I'm referring to the way our government is dealing with the fact that Singh is a vile misogynist. Yesterday, India's Daughter was the subject of debate in the Indian parliament. As heated words and idiotic observations filled the air, Bollywood did India proud because some of the most eloquent and sensible points were made by lyricist Javed Akhtar and actress Jaya Bachchan. It was also one of those occasions when you had to wonder if there is such a thing as a ghost or spirit, and if it can really haunt a place. If ghosts exist, imagine how Sarojini Naidu would have felt, listening to Lekhi's ludicrous claim that India's Daughter will damage tourism in India.

Or how Indira Gandhi, who was pilloried for media censorship during her reign, may have smirked when Rajnath Singh belligerently declared no one should be able to see Udwin's documentary, regardless of whether her reportage is accurate or otherwise. Everything about the Delhi gangrape is heartbreaking, from what she suffered at the hands of her rapists to the fact that the injuries she sustained during the rape ultimately led to her death. The only faint ray of hope lay in the soul-searching that this horrifying incident inspired in India. The courage and determination that the young woman displayed, even as she lay on her deathbed, was amazing. She didn't go gently into the night. She raged. One of the first things she did upon regaining consciousness was record her testimony for the police — so that silence didn't shroud her case. She fought. She spoke up.

And yesterday, a little more than two years after that gangrape, the government roared — not in support of Nirbhaya or the hundreds and thousands of men and women who have stood up to be heard against the misogyny raging through India; but to shut down the conversation. Why? Because Mukesh Singh, one of the accused in the Nirbhaya gangrape, makes India look bad.

Contrary to Lekhi's claim, Delhi isn't considered the rape capital of the world (it's considered the rape capital of India. By Indians, not the BBC). Women tourists feel unsafe not just because of the Delhi gangrape of 2012, but also because of incidents like the rape of a Spanish woman in 2012the attack on a Swiss tourist couple in 2013, and the rape of a Danish tourist in 2014. Indian officials suggested the Swiss couple were partially to blame for the gangrape and robbery that they suffered while travelling through Madhya Pradesh. Opinions like that wouldn't damage the nation's image or affect tourism, would it?

It isn't that long ago that Indian television screens saw advertisements in which a woman said that she wanted change (read: a BJP government) because she wanted to live in a country that was safe for her daughter. The ads were part of the BJP's election campaign, which didn't hesitate to milk the surging outrage that crimes against women had inspired among Indians. A few days ago, during the Budget session, money was promised to the Nirbhaya fund. Yesterday, however, all those promises and gestures proved to be tokens when the government made evident that it cares more for what it perceives to be India's image than it does for the ground reality of women in India.

Women are being raped in cabs, they're being discriminated against, and they rarely have the luxury of feeling safe. Meanwhile, the budget for national rape crisis centres has been slashed from Rs 244.48 crore to Rs 18 crore and the government would rather talk about paperwork, find ways to blame the Congress party and concoct desperate rants about BBC "defying" the Indian government.

The worst part of the whole controversy surrounding India's Daughter is that our government has shifted the focus from the unpalatable truth that Mukesh Singh is twisted and remorseless. He had no hesitation to say (on camera) that Nirbhaya should have just "allowed" the rape, rather than fought back. His opinion that women should limit their activities to housework and housekeeping isn't unusual. In fact, it's conventional, as is his opinion that wearing "wrong" clothes and going out after dark is tantamount to a justification for rape. That a man who has been found guilty and is in prison has the audacity to say all this isn't disturbing to our government. Neither is it of concern to them that others — like the lawyers Udwin has interviewed — find Singh's point of view agreeable.

What has got the government's knickers in a twist is what the rest of the world will say. And so, instead of looking to address the problem of deep-rooted misogyny or finding some way of making an example of Mukesh Singh by rapping his knuckles, the government decided to politicise the matter and use Udwin's documentary to point fingers at the Congress party. Confronted with an odious criminal who spouted hateful bile, our government's reaction was to wail about paperwork.

And just like that, in the same Parliament in which Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of trysts with destiny, India's democratically elected government became a terrible, pathetic joke. Yesterday, the Indian government showed that it has no idea how strongly those who brought them to power feel about the Delhi gangrape and crimes against women. Massive crowds took the streets for Nirbhaya and even after two years, a mere mention of the gang rape is enough to provoke a response from all of us, men and women. Consider this: The main accused was found dead in jail and the suspicion is that he was murdered by fellow inmates. Did some people decide to take matters into their own hands rather than wait for the slow judicial system to come to its conclusion?

The questions of who permitted Udwin to interview Mukesh Singh is one that the government is free to ponder. However, it's worth keeping in mind that the state of Udwin's paperwork has no bearing upon how so many Indian men feel privileged by virtue of their gender, or the incidence of crimes against women, or the rage so many of us feel at the sound of the poisonous misogyny that Singh spewed.

Commentators like Arnab Goswami would rather we don't acknowledge these bad guys' existence because what they say is disturbing and offensive. He's absolutely right that listening to the things that Singh and others have said could be trigger warnings for those who have survived violent crimes. Unfortunately, ignoring the rapists and those who condone violence against women doesn't help. Until we can validly say that opinions like Mukesh Singh's are not commonplace, that these people are exceptions that no one relates to, the unpalatable truth is that these are some of India's sons.

We have better chance of respecting victims and survivors by acknowledging the existence of those who are guilty, than by pretending they (and consequently the crimes they committed) don't exist. Our government's only response to these toxic individuals is to turn its back on them and pretend they don't exist, which only adds to the frustration. We've spent decades not talking about issues like rape and victim-blaming, and brushing them under the carpet. It didn't help. Women continued to be raped, rapists continued to be remorseless. Perhaps listening to Mukesh Singh and feeling ashamed or angry might have some effect.

Will banning Udwin's documentary make India a safer place for women? Will pretending Mukesh Singh is out of sight and out of mind enough to drive misogyny out of Indian society? Can denial make everyone feel warm, fuzzy and secure? According to our government, yes. If you don't hear it, if you don't see it, and if you keep quiet, then the problem doesn't exist. In the course of one parliamentary debate, the government reduced India from a nation that stands by its brave citizens to one that is a parody of Mahatma Gandhi's three wise monkeys. If that isn't a campaign to defame India, what is?


'India's Daughter', the documentary based on the 2012 Delhi gang-rape, holds a mirror to the society and its mindset, and should be watched by everybody, Nirbhaya's father said today, questioning the ban on its screening in India. "Everyone should watch the film. If a man can speak like that in jail, imagine what he would say if he was walking free," said the father of the young woman who was brutally gang-raped, tortured and killed by six men, including a 17-year-old, on a moving bus.
Shobhaa De 'India's Daughter Banned?' It Should be Compulsory Viewing
Rajnath Singh  has missed the point... and lost the plot.
Come on, Mr. Home Minister , what exactly are you "furious" about? That the world will soon know what our men in India think of us - the women of this country? Or that India will get a 'bad name' internationally, thanks to the documentary aptly titled "India's Daughter"? Rajnath Singh is worried about the "embarrassment" the documentary will cause to our Bharat Mahaan, where women are compared to exposed sweets left by the roadside for dogs to attack (this priceless quote comes from ML  Sharma, one of the defence lawyers handling the Nirbhaya case). Just look at the irony of it all. Instead of acknowledging the gravity of the situation and promising to tackle crimes against women on a war footing, the Home Minister is diverting attention from the tragedy itself and concentrating on prison procedures (who granted permissions to the crew to shoot inside the infamous Tihar jail? Why?).  Instead, shouldn't Rajnath's fury be reserved for the lack of political will in tackling rape and related acts of brutality against women of our country? If he cannot address the real issues, he should step back from getting involved and finding convenient scapegoats, like the film-maker or those seeking to broadcast the documentary. Will banning the documentary achieve anything? Stop future rapes? There is no face left to save in any case.

Log kya kahenge: The real reason we don't want India's Daughter on air
Let’s be clear about what this should not be about. It should not be about the fact that it’s a Western filmmaker who made this film. Everyone has a right to talk about the issue. Anyway Indian filmmakers who talk about Indian problems also get accused of peddling poverty to westerners as Nargis Dutt once accused Satyajit Ray. Whether the United States has more reported rapes than India or not has nothing to do with this issue. Rape is hardly the most suitable platform to play these games of cultural one-upmanship. And it’s certainly not about tourism. “This affects tourism,” BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi told the Rajya Sabha. “The police should take appropriate action…they should be charged under appropriate sections.” All of this self-righteous political indignation, allegedly on behalf of the rape victim from 2012, is really about something else entirely. The outrage should be about gang rapes not that there is a documentary about a gang rape. 
Ban on Nirbhaya documentary: Let’s accept it, we are offended by our own ugliness
Let’s accept it, we are offended by our own ugliness. We are offended, because a foreigner tells us we have the most sickening patriarchal mind-set in the world...Misogyny, which we are condemning so vociferously today, is not a crime in India. It is very much a part of our culture and is held close to the heart by most Indians who put up a solid offence against it in public. It is deeply rooted in our psyche, so much so that at times we fail to identify it.
Rape in India is also used as a weapon to “shame” the woman. This is precisely the reason why women are raped in political, communal and social conflicts... In the documentary Mukesh Singh says, “We wanted to teach her a lesson for breaching social/cultural norms” and “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy”. How is Mukesh Singh any different from MP Yogi Adityanath's men who allegedly asked a gathering in UP to “rape the corpses of dead Muslim women?” If you accept the latter and condemn the former, I can only point out at the sheer hypocrisy of this...the reason why we don’t want to watch the documentary is because we don’t want to believe that those rapists think exactly like us.
The rapists' lawyers ML Sharma and AP Singh too get to voice their misogynistic, warped ideas with great flourish. "A woman is like a diamond. If you leave her on the street, the dogs will come and take her," says Sharma. "I stand by what I had said," declares AP Singh who had said that he will burn his sister or daughter if she ventured out in the evening like the victim. As we know, these men, like many other have voiced such dangerous opinions in the past without consequences. The film doesn't antagonise them either. That's why the documentary makes me uncomfortable. While it talks about the protests in India, and the news laws that  were passed, the film in itself fails to embody the resistance that either the victim or the people of the country put up against patriarchy and sexual violence. Pitted against the rapist and his lawyers, the victim's parents look helpless and spent.
India's Daughter quietly listens in to what a rapist, murderer has to say. It doesn't rage, it doesn't even blink while doing so.  And that just feels wrong.
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