Television

India’s Daughter: Country takes a step towards judicial dictatorship

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MUMBAI: Nirbhaya, a name that garners sympathy whenever it is pronounced, but is sympathy enough for the daughter of the nation, who was brutally raped and murdered? What has changed after her sad demise? The answer is NOTHING.

After the fatal incident that took place on 16 December, 2012, politicians used the name Nirbhaya to seek sympathetic affection. In other words, the name Nirbhaya became a part of dirty vote bank politics. What started as a revolt to abolish rape ended up becoming an empowerment scheme in the Indian government. And today the name is making headlines again. But for what? Have the rapists, who were responsible for her fatal death, been hung? No. There’s no cause to be so optimistic because such is not the case.

A British film enthusiast Leslee Udwin has made a documentary titled “India’s Daughter” focusing on the brutal incident that took place in Delhi, three years back.  The documentary, which was aired by the BBC in the UK, features conversations with Mukesh Singh and fellow convicts who raped and tortured a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in December 2012. Excerpts from the documentary irked lawmakers. The government of the world’s largest democracy has banned the telecast of the documentary in the country. The problem with the documentary is the interview given by the convicted Mukesh Singh. It is alleged that Singh used abusive content against women in India, which may hurt national sentiments. Was rape of Nirbhaya not enough to hurt national sentiments? How does a rapist’s reaction cause ban to a piece that was documented after two years of professional research?

The other controversial point that emerged from the documentary is the interview that was scheduled in Tihar Jail. Let’s do a reality check, Tihar Jail in Delhi is the largest jail in South Asia and it is quite obvious that no one can interview a prisoner without the jailor’s permission. So if we put everything in perspective, two years ago a British film enthusiast, who has experience of acting in movies like Merchant Of Venice and producing 1999 British cult comedy East is East and its sequel, teamed up with a group of Indian, which includes a journalist, to make a documentary. After two years of research, analysis and interviews the documentary was scheduled to be premiered on International Women’s Day i.e. 8 March.

NDTV, in a press release announced that its English news channel will telecast the interview-based documentary in India on International Women's Day at 9 pm. However, the Delhi High Court spelled a verdict to hold the screening in India till further notice and hence the channel will not be airing the documentary as per schedule.

Speaking to Indiantelevision.com, NDTV editorial director Sonia Singh says, “As there is a court order, we won’t be airing the documentary as of now.”

“We are shocked at the ban and censorship. There will be no further comments,” adds a spokesperson from the channel.

Now let’s scan through a few opinions that came from prominent personalities after the excerpts of interview were out on public platforms.

Director and producer of the documentary Leslee Udwin told Indiatelevision.com that the film’s message conveyed that the time had come to respect women and not just treat them well. She was hoping for a sea-change.

“An interview, which will defame India internationally is totally unacceptable,” said India’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu, on the Nirbhaya documentary.

The honourable Minister, is no doubt aware of what happened to Draupadi in Mahabharata. Will he impose a ban on screening of the Mahabharata too, as it defames the integrity of a WOMAN?

Home Minister Rajnath Singh went a step further. His tweet read, “The producers of documentary on Nirbhaya were required to take approval from the Jail authorities before telecast but they did not do so.”

It is utterly surprising how a foreigner enters the largest jail in South Asia and conducts an interview, which is certainly not shot by a hidden camera without taking the necessary permissions. The incident signifies that there are no consensus in the lawmaking fraternity as someone might have allowed the developments which others had a problem with. Sharing his emotions the Home Minister tweeted, “I was personally hurt by this, spoke to authorities, made sure all steps were taken to stop the broadcast.”

One wonders why, with all the power, doesn’t he increase the pace of judicial proceedings to ensure justice to Nirbhaya?

Ex-cop woman-turned politician and BJP’s Delhi head Kiren Bedi’s opinion differs from other party leaders and was seconded by veteran journalist Rajdeep Sardesai. He opined, “@thekiranbedi strongly defends the telecast of the Nirbhaya documentary. I support her view!”

Rajya Sabha member and famous scriptwriter and lyricist Javed Akhtar said, “It’s good that this documentary has been made. If anyone finds it objectionable, they should change their mindset.”

Author Chetan Bhagat’s tweet read, “Lack of consent and banning free speech comes in the same category - violation of individual rights.” After watching the documentary online, Bhagat once again tweeted, “Documentary #IndiasDaughter is extraordinary. Moving, thought provoking. Makers have Nirbhaya's parents consent. Available on YouTube for now.”

India should not forget that filmmakers like Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak hail from the same country where every second thing is getting banned. The first Asian to win a Nobel Prize for literature was also an Indian and with all this censorship, we are not only demeaning the stalwarts but defaming our Motherland internationally. We compare ourselves with western countries and while they rejoice Argoand Zero Dark Thirty, we ban the screening of India’s Daughter.

The rape itself is demeaning and there cannot be anything more defamatory than the brutal act. If India is so concerned about pride and integrity, the judiciary should put efforts in prohibiting such fatal and irrational acts instead of banning a fact-based documentary. Mukesh Singh’s interview makes my blood boil as it should every Indian’s. The fact that all men do not subscribe to the same thought can only be proved by action and not by words, by respecting woman and not demeaning them. The day all men in India take an oath of not raping, rape will be abolished and that will be the biggest manly act in independent India.

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