Don’t blame the mirror – India’s Daughter deserves better

A mirror doesn’t lie. It can be cruel in its honesty in depicting the warts on your face and the evil that lurks behind the carefully arranged make-up. This is as true of a society as it is of a human visage. The social order in today’s India is so ravaged by a moral eczema that it needs more mirrors than a barber shop to reflect its depraved reality. Leslee Udwin’s documentary on the Nirbhaya rape case, INDIA’S DAUGHTER, is one such mirror, and we would do well to gaze on the ugliness that stares back at us from its contents instead of denying it. But what do we do instead? We denounce the film. Register a criminal case against the makers of the documentary, demand that it be banned, term it an interference in the judicial process and call it an insult to Indian womanhood. Can anything be more puerile and self-serving?

We are a sick society but won’t admit it. Its not just about rapes or about the one in three women in the country who are subjected to domestic violence. Its also about a judicial system that acquits four of every five persons charged with rape. Its about a police force that can thrash a severely disabled beggar on a railway platform. Its about a Chief Minister whose pilot car can mow down a pedestrian with impunity. Its about the fifteen persons who die on the railway tracks in Mumbai EVERY DAY with nothing done about it. Its about the twenty million children working in bonded labour. Its about India’s richest man building the world’s most expensive residence next to slums. Its about Delhi’s premier hospital refusing to admit a month old critical infant who then dies. Its about hospitals keeping dead patients in ICUs so that they can charge another day’s tariff. Its about foul mouthing a woman who died tending leprosy patients with her own wrinkled hands. Its about slaughtering each other in the thousands over Gods whom no one has ever seen, and who, presumably, don’t give a damn in any case.

ID

But we won’t admit we are sick. Nor will we allow anyone to convince us otherwise. It is in this context that we have to assess the current furor against Leslee Udwin’s film.

One fails to see what exactly in the film has offended our erstaz moral/ legal/ liberal gate-keepers. It is simply a succession of interviews with all those involved in the Nirbhaya case: the convicted, the parents of the girl, families of other accused and the lawyers. It does not make any judgments or take a position on the merits of the case. It simply seeks to go inside the psyche of the main players and uncover the thoughts, urges and impulses implicit in the tragic events that unfolded. It explores the heart of darkness that lies within each of us, and that perhaps is what makes the screaming mobs uncomfortable.

The main charge against the film is that it gives the rapist a “forum to express his views.” What is wrong with that? Hasn’t he already done that in the trial court, and will he not do so again in appeal? Doesn’t a convict have the right to freedom of speech? In any case, he is not saying anything that we haven’t heard before on similar lines, from the mouths of eminent politicians, fundamentalist organisations and Khap panchayats. Mukesh’s (the convict’s) views on women and their own culpability for rape mirrors the views of a large section of Indian males (and of policemen too). Its precisely this which has inspired the opposition to the film, for we don’t like to be reminded of the disease infecting us. The brutal fact is that Mukesh speaks for many of us, and therefore we want to silence him by banning the film.Gr

Its heartening to observe that many women’s organisations, and people like Kiran Bedi, are supportive of the film and its screening. Some, however, like Abha Singh and Kavita Krishnan, are their normal shrill and strident selves in condemning it. According to them Mukesh’s comments lowers “women’s dignity” and is an insult to all women. Of course they do so, and that is precisely the point the film is trying to make- to expose the thought processes of the north Indian male that regards a woman- related or not- as a God ordained object of his lust, violence and contempt. Surely, this exposure only furthers the campaign that these ladies have launched-why then should they object? I have a sneaking suspicion that they do so because they want to monopolise any campaign for the betterment of women and will brook no rivals. How dare Leslee Udwin barge into the scene without their say-so?

Its much easier to figure out the reasons behind the government’s typically panicked reaction in the face of Ms. Udwin’s statement that she had obtained all permissions for the interview and had even had the raw footage approved and vetted by the Tihar Jail authorities. I see two reasons to explain the government’s headless chicken act. One, unable to nail the film makers on any procedural grounds, the government is now trying to catch them on the patently specious charge of airing “offensive content”, “insulting women” and apprehension of “breach of peace”. It has been reported that charges have been filed under as many as eleven sections of law! The government and the Delhi police are as usual doing what they are best at- hunting for a scapegoat. Second, scatter red herrings across the trail and divert the hounds( read the media) on to a diversionary track so that they don’t ask the real questions that need to be asked. Some of these questions are:

  • If the matter was so sensitive why was permission for the interview given by the Ministry of Home Affairs in the first place?
  • If the content of the documentary is objectionable and criminal in nature why was it cleared during vetting by the Tihar Jail authorities?
  • Should the concerned officers of MHA and Tihar Jail not be made accused in the case, if at all the makers of the film are to be so charged?
  •  Why is the Supreme Court sitting over the appeals of the accused for the last almost one year? During this same period, if the Court could find time to give urgent hearings to cases involving Jayalalitha, the Marans, TMC’s charge against the CBI, BCCI’s affairs etc. why is it unable to find time for a case which shook the nation to its very foundations?
  • Why does the government not petition the Supreme Court for early hearing of the appeals? Of what use is its promise of ” fast-tracking” of rape cases if its business as usual in the Supreme Court?

Our track record in the recent past in matters of freedom of expression has been pretty dismal. The strident minority has always been able to drown out the voices of the silent majority. It has become the order of the day for the hypocrite and the obscurantist to masquerade as the offended and the liberal, for the misogynist to pose as the custodian of culture. The government, by its silence and selective actions, has generally supported such regressive elements. Will it continue to do so by banning INDIA’S DAUGHTER and prosecuting its authors?

Or will it finally have the courage and the conviction to look into the mirror?

Facebook Notice for EU! You need to login to view and post FB Comments!

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls. He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/

Join the Conversation

10 Comments

  1. says: manmohan

    India needs to change its attitude towards females and it has start from the schools with more interactive behavior dummy workshops and methods and best solutions to issues

  2. says: Lachlan

    Great post. They should have executed these men already, and the documentary should be allowed to air.

  3. says: Mukundan

    This documentary is not a mirror. This is insulting a poor departed soul. This shows how a petty little western mind works and how the brown sahebs still have the slave mentality.

  4. says: Raj Shekhar

    Very true.

    We should have guts to face the truth of our society. I do condemn the barbarous act on Nirbhaya. But our society is not mentally made up for accepting Western values where women are allowed to roam in whatever way they want.

  5. says: Parinati Sunkar

    Very true sir, it so happens that often all the important questions remain unanswered and unacknowledged. If we don’t discuss these issues on national forums and ridicule and condemn the wrong and wrong-doers then how will we invoke the guilt of doing wrong in anybody, if we don’t convict them and punish them, how will they fear of doing anything wrong.
    Many shows in India talk about such issues like Satyamev Jayate and Crime Patrol, in their own way they depict the story and point of views of the stakeholders. This was yet another platform to bring in all the stakeholders at one place and hear them, and to rethink and discuss where are we headed as a society. To assess where as a government, as a system, are we going wrong, how can we change what is wrong and strengthen the system to fight against such heinous crimes plaguing our society and ascertainensures for protecting our women and their dignity.

  6. says: Radhika srinivasan

    India , especially North India, has been subject to a thousand years of subjugation by a people who do not value women as equal members of society. that and the subsequent Colonial rule has broken our social fabric so much that our women are commodified and raped at will. This sick mindset is a product of subjugation and the resultant low self esteem. Independent India is just trying to gain back the Indian pride slowly, but it will take a sea change in moral standards, political will judicial reforms and social transformation through education and gender sensitization. the despairity between the concept of Devi worship and devilish acts of violence is clearly a legacy of our painful, very painful past!

  7. says: Nodnat

    It scares me to think what might have happened had Leslee Udwin been Indian. But the crime of rape and much else against women is basically due to the girl child being culturally unwanted. The Nirbhaya accused have articulated that very well, and since we can’t face it, break the mirror by banning the film. A great write.

  8. says: amarjot

    Am so glad you voiced what you felt on this matter.
    I had the misfortune of watching arnabs show on times now. I have no idea how I will be able to erase it from my memory.

    It upset me and the way he blatantly shut the filmmaker and lawyer and favored Lekhi, prompted me to delete the Chanel from my favs.

    Even Asa Ram made similar comments as what the driver said.

    But more than saying its a shame , one feels just helpless watching these representatives feel if they don’t like something change the laws.

    Its sad but today cows are safer then women in this great nation of ours.

  9. says: Shiva V

    Banning the documentary is a decided step backwards – the chatting class in the country should be prepared for serious introspection. Criticizing the messenger (read director) who conveys the hateful mindset of much of the males (not only the young) against women is foolish and immature. Will take the country a long while to center its moral compass. Avay’s blog hits all the relevant points and raises sad (for the nation) yet truthful questions.

  10. In today’s times when the Internet Media transcends perhaps all political boundaries, except the Chinese Firewalls, the documentary that Indian establishment claimed to have banned can be freely viewed at YouTube url:-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Tfaurfg7EQ&feature=youtu.be

    Banning the film has only made a mockery of the Indian Law.

    Update 7.3.2015

    Sorry for the broken link as the video of the BBC Documentary has been taken off from YouTube at the given url because of copyright issues

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.