Online news channel!

Tag: india’s daughter

Barkha Dutt corners adamant Leslee Udwin, CBS anchor during discussion on India’s Daughter

Leslee Uwdin’s documentary for BBC India’s Daughter elicited a growl of protest not only among the political class, but men and women across India grumbled about it abundantly on social media. While the government’s move to ban the screening of the film was ridiculous to say the least, the film itself was quite problematic as we had noted in Firstpost.

Understandably, people were least likely to stop debating either about the film, or India’s reaction to it quickly.

Recently, Udwin, journalist Barkha Dutt and women’s rights activist Sunitha Krishnan were invited to the Women In The World summit in New York. A video that was uploaded on YouTube on 24 April shows a discussion with Udwin, Dutt and CBS news anchor Norah O’Donnell.

Donnell opens the discussion by commenting how India’s Daughter was the ‘most disturbing’ film she has seen till date and that it has made her ‘think deeply’. She goes on to ask Udwin why she wanted to make the film. Udwin, singing praises for the Indian protesters, said that the wave of protest that washed over India prompted her to make the documentary.

“It felt like they were fighting for my rights,” said Udwin. Interestingly enough, while Udwin’s documentary talks about the protests, it gives a fleeting few seconds of screen time to the likes of Kavitha Krishnan who had been instrumental in organising the protests. The documentary, curiously enough, ignores the Indian voices that drove the protests and instead keeps going back to Maria Misra, a Oxford historian, to explain the politics of the protest.

Barkha Dutt at the discussion.Barkha Dutt at the discussion.

Barkha Dutt at the discussion.

In the discussion, O’Donnell then begins talking about the impact of the documentary and comments that the documentary made her realise how ‘unsafe India is for women’.

Which is when Barkha Dutt intervenes and says that though she doesn’t support the ban on the film, she has serious issues with Udwin’s narrative and what some of the film’s audience’s have made of it.

She points out that statistics show that there are more incidents of sexual violence in United Kingdom and United States of America, than there is in India. She also comments that India has paid maternity leave and there are no polarized debates on the right to abortion, unlike the US.

“I don’t like the generalisations about my country,” she says to a rousing round of applause.

But just when you thought that Dutt had made a valid argument against the rampant stereotyping that the film seems to encourage, she makes a slightly off-colour assertion. She says that she once had a conversation with Hillary Clinton about why it was so difficult for women to become President in America. “I told her, we don’t have these discussions in India. We had a woman Prime Minister four decades back,” she declares jubilantly, completely ignoring the complicated political circumstances under which Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister in India.

However, the comment met with a glorious round of applause from the audience and from several other portals.

For example ScoopWhoop carried a part of the video with the following headline: “Barkha Dutt Silences A Foreign Reporter Who Said “India Is So Unsafe For Women”.

The fact is, the moderator seems ‘silenced’ only because the site has chosen to cut exactly  one minute and 46 seconds from a video that is originally over 30 minutes long. In fact, right after Dutt finishes her argument, O’Donnell though slightly stumped asks why it took the murder of a girl for the country to rise in protest.

Storypick too picks on the fact that Dutt shuts up a ‘foreign’ reporter and says, “A Foreign Reporter Said “India Is So Unsafe For Women”. Barkha Dutt Responded Back In Style.

The moment Dutt finishes talking about what kept the protests going, O’Donnell plays a clip from the part of the film where defence lawyer AP Singh casts aspersions on the victim’s character. It seems as if the anchor is insisting that the Indian reality is exactly what Udwin’s film said it was, with no alterations.

However, Udwin herself seems to defeat the purpose. With Dutt prodding her, she says that the film was supposed to be on gender inequality and how it’s a disease plaguing the world. “At the end of the film, there was a roll of statistics which indicated how rampant sexual violence is…,” she trails off, when Dutt interjects.

Dutt refers to the news that BBC had edited that bit out to make the film entirely about India. Udwin agrees and says, “Only the BBC had the right to tinker with it and I am very upset that they did. They claimed that they don’t run films with statistics because it makes the film look like NGO films.”

Though Dutt says that the ban on film is ill-conceived and there were widespread protests around it, Udwin suggests that the protests were ‘not enough’. Dutt then goes on to question the necessity of Udwin interviewing Mukesh Singh, because it was not as if anyone believed him to be possessing respectable opinions about women. Dutt asks, “What have we learnt from this interview?” a question that has perhaps crossed the minds of hundreds of people who watched Udwin’s documentary.

Udwin, however, doesn’t seem like she is willing to back off and says, “The first thing we have learnt is shock and shock is a very important aspect.” She then goes on to talk about genital mutilation and then comes back on the case of Mukesh Singh. “You have to understand the minds of these men to try to change them,” she argues.

However, that doesn’t seem a remotely convincing explanation as there is no plausible way Mukesh Singh’s interview will help identify other potential rapists or would facilitate any exercise to ‘change’ them. Also, what is a fool-proof of way of reforming men who have committed well planned and ghastly crimes like Singh and his accomplices did?

She seems to claim that her film, seems to have exclusively unravelled the mystery of patriarchy before us, enabling us to understand violence against women with more clarity. And that, unfortunately, is quite far from the truth.

We had noted in this article previously about Udwin’s documentary, “And all we can do is to watch powerlessly, as we do when women are raped over and again in this country. In a more traditional news interview, Udwin could have asked, “Do you not think that is cruel and inhuman?” It would have added a much needed counterpoint to Mukesh’s ghastly soliloquy.”

However, what is double disturbing is how the anchor seems to be quite deeply bent on suggesting that India is a homogenous society which shares the same sentiments as the lawyer AP Singh. From O’Donnell’s tone to her refusal to concur with Dutt at any given point of time, she seems far more interested in validating the stereotypes established by Udwin’s film than ‘moderating’ the discussion.

A commenter on YouTube perhaps sums up the problem with taking Udwin’s film at face value and backing it as O’Donnell does, “Not every Indian shares same views as that of the lawyer. No. Certainly not. We are far more ahead and forward and rational and modern than what people of other countries think we are, but yes, there are a few ill minded human beings also, who exist. And we are ashamed of them. But again, people like Norah should not take just that one footage (which is in fact true and  shameful) to generalize the entire nation.”

Watch the video here:

India’s Daughter documentary: Delhi HC seeks Leslee Udwin’s reply on convicts plea

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday sought reply from Leslee Udwin, the director of the controversial documentary on 16 December, 2012 gangrape, on a plea of convict Mukesh Singh seeking a CBI inquiry and Udwin’s prosecution.

Justice Sunita Gupta also asked Delhi Police and BBC and advocate VK Anand, who had briefly represented Mukesh Singh during trial of the case to file their response by 27 April.

Leslee Udwin in a file photo. IbnliveLeslee Udwin in a file photo. Ibnlive

Leslee Udwin in a file photo. Ibnlive

Advocate ML Sharma, appearing for convict Mukesh Singh, has alleged that the film is “outcome of fraud and conspiracy” hatched by documentary maker Leslee Udwin, BBC and a private news channel with advocate VK Anand.

He claimed that Mukesh Singh was a victim of “conspiracy” and due to the film, he has been again fixed in the criminal scenario.

The plea stated that the broadcast of the interview of Mukesh Singh, allegedly taken inside Tihar Jail here in July 2013, should not be allowed.

The documentary is about the gangrape of a 23-year-old woman, who was brutally assaulted on 16 December, 2012 in a moving bus in Delhi.

It kicked up a storm after one of the convicts Mukesh Singh was interviewed in Delhi’s Tihar Jail.

The convict’s lawyer sought direction that any part of the documentary should not be used in any legal or judicial proceedings in any manner.

The plea said: “During the film, Mukesh Singh was told to do acting of an accused and to deliver script written dialogue. Mukesh Singh is illiterate. He only did acting in the said film, what he has spoken is not his own view or statements. It is neither his confession nor his own statement.

“The director and BBC have committed a serious crime against Mukesh Singh, the petition said and demanded that the film must be seized and those guilty be prosecuted.

IANS

The ban stays: Delhi HC rules to continue prohibition of BBC documentary

New Delhi: The ban on the telecast of controversial BBC documentary “India’s Daughter” on the December 16, 2012, gang rape will continue, the Delhi High Court ordered on Wednesday.

It also refused to pass any interim order on plea against prohibition to telecast the documentary.

The central government told the court that the excerpts of documentary contained an interview with one of the convicted rapists of the December 16 gang rape case and his “chauvinistic and derogatory views” regarding women in general and the victim in particular.

A screengrab from the documentaryA screengrab from the documentary

A screengrab from the documentary

Appearing for the central government, advocate Monica Arora brought the original documents of the ministry of home affairs that ordered the ban.

A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice R.S. Endlaw hearing the plea posted the matter for May 27 and said: “It’s not a matter for any interim order. We have called records from government, we will see them first.”

The court earlier refused to lift the ban and asked the trial court to submit the records and advisory issued on March 3 by the government while hearing the two public interest litigations (PILs) before it for revocation of the ban on the documentary’s telecast.

The ministry of information and broadcasting filed an affidavit and sought dismissal of the pleas.

“The excerpts of documentary contained an interview with one of the convicted rapists of the Delhi gang rape victim of December 2012. These excerpts were telecast on various channels throughout the day, with visuals of the convict, who was showing no remorse whatsoever for the heinous act. The excerpts also contained his chauvinistic and derogatory views regarding women in general and the victim in particular,” it said.

It said that the telecast of documentary will provide a platform for the convict to use the media to further his own case, especially when his appeal against his conviction is sub-judice. The appeals of convicts are pending before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in July last year put on hold the execution of the four convicts in the case.

“The telecast of these excerpts appeared to encourage and incite violence against women, thus compromising women’s public safety. They also provide encouragement to anti-social elements to indulge in violent acts compromising law and order,” said the affidavit.

The documentary is about the gang rape of a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist, who was brutally assaulted on December 16, 2012, in a moving bus in Delhi. It kicked up a storm after one of the convicts, Mukesh Singh, was interviewed in Delhi’s Tihar Jail.

The documentary also has comments from the convicts’ counsel A.P. Singh and M.L. Sharma, who allegedly made derogatory remarks against women.

The ban on the telecast of the documentary in all formats caused an uproar in India.

The PILs said the ban on the documentary was in clear violation of fundamental rights under Article 19 of the Constitution.

They sought direction to declare as illegal the act of banning the documentary by the home ministry, the information and broadcasting ministry, and the Delhi Police commissioner.

The Centre on March 3 issued an advisory to ban the broadcast of the documentary and the trial court on March 4 banned it until further orders.

As per social media, the public at large wanted to see the documentary, as within a day of it being put up on YouTube it was viewed by more 2.86 lakh people, the pleas said.

IANS

India’s Daughter: SC seeks reply from lawyers of accused for remarks on women

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought response from two advocates, representing the 16 December gangrape convicts, against whom a women lawyers body has sought action for allegedly making derogatory remarks against women in a BBC documentary on the case.

Supreme Court has sought a response from two lawyers for allegedly making derogatory comments against women in 'India's Daughter' documentary. Agencies

Supreme Court has sought a response from two lawyers for allegedly making derogatory comments against women in ‘India’s Daughter’ documentary. Agencies

“We have heard the argument, pleadings and grievances urged in the petition. The matter requires consideration in view of the factual and legal submissions,” a bench comprising justices V Gopala Gowda and C Nagappan said.

The bench issued notices to the two advocates, ML Sharma and AP Singh, and sought their response in two weeks.

The Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association, in its petition, had sought restriction on the entry of the two advocates in the apex court premises, alleging that their remarks in the controversial BBC documentary were “inhumane, scandalous, unjustifiable, biased, outrageous, ill-minded” and are a “direct affront to and in violation of the dignity of women”, especially those practicing in the Supreme court.

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) supported the plea of women laywers association.

Senior advocate Vibha Datta Makhija, appearing the women’s association, submitted that the Supreme Court has to lead from the front and show zero tolerance for such views.

“We need an environment where we are fearless,” she said and added that the two advocates need to be sensitised.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for SCBA, submitted that there should be a meaningful and proper implementation of gender sensitisation regulation.

He said, “SCBA has taken a unanimous decision to take action against Sharma.”

The petition had sought protection of fundamental rights, guaranteed under the Constitution, of the female advocates practicing in the apex court to work with dignity and without any gender bias.

The comments were made in the BBC documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ on the 16 December, 2013 gangrape incident.

The petition, filed through advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani, has made Chairperson of Gender Sensitisation Committee and Registrar of the apex court as parties and submitted a transcript of the two lawyers’ comments.

It also sought court’s direction to Sharma and Singh to issue public apology in media for holding and making public views which are “absolutely derogatory to the dignity of women” and refraining from issuing such statements in future.

The two advocates be also directed to retract their statements and their apology should also be included in the BBC documentary, the petition had said.

The association represented by secretary Prerna Kumari had said in the petition that the remarks made by the two advocates showed they do not have respect for any woman and do not see them as more than an object.

It had added that the conduct of these lawyers showed complete absence of any concern for society and utter disregard of the Constitutional values and human rights of women besides the ethics and etiquette of the Bar.

It is much more than a crime, the petition said.

PTI

Ban on BBC documentary to continue till April 15

Documentary filmmaker Leslee Udwin. Image courtesy: IBNLiveDocumentary filmmaker Leslee Udwin. Image courtesy: IBNLive

Documentary filmmaker Leslee Udwin. Image courtesy: IBNLive

New Delhi: The ban on the telecast of controversial BBC documentary India’s Daughter on the December 16, 2012 gang rape will continue as the Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the central government to place an advisory issued by it to ban the documentary.

A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice R.S. Endlaw posted the two public interest litigations (PILs) for revocation of the ban on the documentary’s telecast for April 15.

“Place before this court the advisory issued on March 3 by the ministry of information and broadcasting,” said the bench.

IANS

Media trials tend to influence judges: Delhi HC on India’s Daughter documentary

New Delhi: Media trials tend to influence judges by subconsciously creating a pressure, the Delhi High Court on Thursday observed on the airing of the controversial documentary on the 16 December gangrape case.

Delhi High Court said media trials affect judgement. IBNLive

Delhi High Court said media trials affect judgement. IBNLive

A bench of justices BD Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva said although it is prima facie not opposed to airing of the documentary, it should be released after the Supreme Court decides the appeals of the convicts in the matter.

“Media trials do tend to influence judges. Subconsciously a pressure is created and it does have an effect on the sentencing of the accused/convict,” it said in support of its observation.

The bench was of the view that the documentary could “interfere with the justice system” but refused to pass any interim orders saying it has to be decided by an appropriate bench of Chief Justice.

“We are prima facie not opposed to airing of the documentary, but only after the Supreme Court decides the appeals.

“Had it been originally placed before us, we would have asked you to place material before us on why ban be lifted. But it has come here from the roster bench of Chief Justice, so we will not pass any interim orders. Let the roster bench decide it,” the court said and listed the matter for hearing on 18 March.

Observing that airing of the video could make or ruin the case of one of the rape convicts, Mukesh, it said, “Whether he has shown remorse or not would be considered at the time of his sentencing. Why not wait till the Supreme Court decision?”

On the contention that ban on airing of the video till apex court judgement could also lead to gag on reporting of all sub-judice matters, the bench said,”We agree”.

It said that earlier media had a self imposed code of not reporting sub-judice matters, but now “media has thrown it (the code) to the winds.”

The Central government, represented by advocate Monika Arora, opposed airing of the documentary saying it would give a platform to the convict to air his views and that it also contains derogatory statements against the victim.

She also said that Information and Broadcasting Ministry only issued an advisory to cable TV networks to abide by the magisterial court’s order banning airing of the documentary.

The petitioners, on the other hand, claimed that as the government failed to control spread of the documentary via Internet and since its viewing by lakhs of people caused no untoward or law and order situation there are no grounds for banning the video. The petitioners also said that parts of the convict’s interview are already part of the judgement in the case by the trial court and high court and thus are public records.

The court had earlier refused to give urgent hearing after three law students – Vibhor Anand, Arun Menon and Kritika Padode – in their two separate PILs, said “fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression have been infringed due to government’s illegal action to ban the broadcast.”

They had approached the high court after a trial court on 4 March had banned until further orders the broadcast of the interview of 16 December, 2012 gangrape convict Mukesh Singh, allegedly conducted in July 2013 inside Tihar jail in New Delhi.

Earlier, a trial court had restrained the media from broadcasting or publishing the interview of Mukesh Singh after the Delhi Police moved the court seeking the restraint.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry had also issued an advisory to all television channels not to broadcast it.

The pleas had sought lifting of the ban on the ground that it is “a look at the mindset of one of the convicted rapists”.

One of the pleas had also sought direction to the Bar Council of India to expedite action against the two lawyers – advocate AP Singh and ML Sharma – who had allegedly made derogatory anti-women remarks in the documentary.

It also claimed that the parents of the gangrape victim have not objected to the telecast of the documentary.

The victim, a physiotherapy student, was raped and assaulted with an iron rod after she boarded an unregistered private bus to go home after watching a movie with a male friend on 16 December, 2012.

Her male companion was badly beaten up and could not come to her rescue when she was assaulted in the bus. The two were later dumped naked and bleeding on the roadside.

The woman was airlifted to a Singapore hospital for treatment where she died – 13 days after the assault – of the injuries inflicted upon her.

Mukesh, along with three others, was convicted and sentenced to death in September 2013 for the gangrape and murder of the 23-year-old victim.

PTI

India’s Daughter: Victim’s friend backs ban, slams Leslee’s documentary

Amid the controversy over the banning of BBC documentary India’s Daughter, the friend of the Delhi gangrape victim, Avanindra Pandey, who was with the victim in the bus on 16 December 2012, has called it ‘fake’.

Speaking to CNN-IBN Pandey said, “The documentary is unbalanced as the victim’s viewpoint is missing. The facts are hidden and the content is fake. Only Jyoti and I know what happened on that night and the documentary is far from the truth.”

Representational image.Representational image.

Representational image.

Leslie Udwin, the director of the documentary, in her defence had said that her film accurately depicted what happened that night. But Pandey backed the government’s ban.

CNN-IBN reports, “Backing his claim, Pandey said he had never heard the name of tutor Satendra, who features in the documentary. “Moreover, how does he know which movie I wanted to watch on that night,” asks Pandey.

The Delhi gangrape victim’s parents, her tutor and close friend Satendra were interviewed for the documentary.

Satendra had claimed that on that night Pandey had wanted to watch an action film, but Jyoti wanted to watch Life of Pi.

Pandey was scathingly critical of the documentary saying, “The documentary has dented country’s image and questioned law and order situation. The documentary showed that any individual can enter the Central Jail of our country and can interview a criminal.”

It was the interview of Mukesh Singh that raised eyebrows and drew the ire of the government and led to the ban. Mukesh had said in his interview that most women were responsible for rape.

And while everyone from the doctors to the policemen involved in the case were interviewed, Pandey, the sole witness of the gruesome incident, was inconspicuously absent.

He told CNN-IBN, “I was approached by many people and it started one and a half years ago, in 2013. I did not want to be part of it as I was not convinced by its motive. Also, I was not mentally prepared and had health issues as well.”

Leslee Udwin slams ‘unprofessional’ Times Now in email, says she is ‘dismayed’ by ‘hate campaign’

BBC‘s documentary India’s Daughter found support from all corners after it was banned by the Indian government. Social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter were flooded with debates and discussions over the ban on the film. NDTV, one of the biggest news channels in the country, took the bold step of going off air for one whole hour during prime time on Sunday evening to protest the ban.

But not all of Indian media showed support. And while everyone is entitled to their opinions, Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami went out of his way to slam the documentary calling it ‘anti-national’

Leslee Udwin in a file photo. IbnliveLeslee Udwin in a file photo. Ibnlive

Leslee Udwin in a file photo. Ibnlive

The hashtag #Nirbhayainsulted, started by Times Now, began trending on Twitter as well. Even as the channel was on a one-sided bashing spree, the film maker of the documentary, Leslee Udwin, took on the channel in an email to its VP, News Operations Hector Kenneth.

DNA, which has a copy of the email sent by Udwin to Kenneth, quotes Udwin as telling Times Now:

I am glad you have reached out to me for comment, this is what professional journalists should always do as you know, and sadly that professionalism has been sorely lacking from Times Now to-date

Goswami had launched a scathing attack against Udwin during his show The Newshour. A dramatic Goswami had begun the show by saying, “If this is journalism, then God save this profession… thankfully this is not journalism. This is voyeurism.” He went on to say that the documentary was just a desperate attempt ‘to grab eyeballs’.

Udwin, obviously was not to happy about these allegations, and in her email she even criticised the way Times Now functions, and asked them to take a leaf out of NDTV‘s book.

DNA quoted Udwin from her email as saying:

I have been particularly dismayed to see the hate-campaign waged by the Channel against a public interest documentary without even having seen it. I have struggled long and hard to understand where this regrettable impulse is coming from and I can only assume that it must be born of professional rivalry with NDTV and perhaps jealousy.

Udwin, in her email, also vehemently denied having paid any money to Mukesh Singh — one of the convicts in the Delhi gangrape case — for his interview.

When Kenneth was asked about why Udwin’s side of the story was not taken into consideration during their debates, he said it was not his call to take. DNA quoted him as saying, “That was not my call. You will have to ask the person whose call it was.”

Read DNA’s full report on Udwin’s email here.

NDTV protests ban on BBC documentry India’s Daughter, goes blank for an hour

In rare stance of protest, not quite seen since the emergency of 1975 (when Indian Express and Statesman published blank pages to protest the Indira Gandhi government’s censorship), NDTV went blank for an hour from 9pm to 10pm to protest the ban on the airing of the BBC documentary India’s Daughter.

The channel only featured a black screen with diya to protest the Indian government’s decision to ban the television broadcast of the documentary which it was scheduled to air on Sunday between 9 pm and 10 pm.

Despite the ban on the airing on television, the film was uploaded on YouTube last week and links were being shared on Facebook by many users. However, by Thursday evening, the documentary was unavailable on several YouTube channels, with the message “This content is not available on this country domain due to a court order”.

An IANS report says that that YouTube blocked access citing court orders, even as the the government served legal notice to the BBC after it ignored a court’s restraining order and aired the documentary two days ahead of schedule.

Screenshot of the channel from YouTube.

Screenshot of the channel from YouTube.

“They were supposed to take final approval from the Tihar jail authorities on the interview of the convicts but they did not do so, and according to the contract signed with the BBC, they were barred to use the documentary for commercial purpose, which they have violated too,” the official told IANS.

The government has said that the film is a global conspiracy to defame India.

Meanwhile Leslee Udwin’s, the director of ‘Storyville: India’s Daughter’ accused the Indian government of trying to ban free speech.

“This is the greatest fight of our times and I wanted to applaud the reaction of the Indian people to the crime with this film. But that has been turned around by this ban, which is an attempt to muzzle free speech,” Udwin.

“I have constantly stressed this is not an Indian problem, it is a global problem. I remain confident that this film will be a powerful tool for change,” she added.

While activists have criticised the film saying that it could harm the legal process in India as Delhi gangrape convict Mukesh Singh and his co-accused still have appeals for their death sentences pending in the Supreme Court, they too have said that a ban is not the solution, but rather delaying the telecast makes more sense.

The debate over the film has polarised many, with some saying the film is a must-see. However NDTV‘s protest against the ban earned it praise on Twitter from many prominent personalities. Some of the reactions are below:

Of course the NDTV protest also resulted in many taking pot-shots at Times Now and its editor-in chief Arnab Goswami.

But perhaps the most bizarre was the conspiracy reaction, with some alleging that this was just NDTV trying to get into everyone’s good-books.

Irrespective of the jokes on Twitter, in the age of 24/7 TV, when TRPs are considered sacred, this was definitely a bold move from NDTV.

India’s Daughter: We should be happy BBC made this ‘shaming’ documentary

The last time an Asian country demonstrated collective national outrage against a foreign Television channel was in 2011 when UK’s Channel 4 produced a ground-breaking documentary on the alleged war crimes and human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Since March 4, a much bigger and more democratic India has been gripped by similar nationalistic fever because of a documentary of another public funded UK channel, BBC 4.

Sri Lanka saw an imperial conspiracy in the Channel 4 film, “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields”, to scuttle its democracy and the glory of its fight against terrorism, while India thought the BBC 4 documentary, “India’s daughter”, on the infamous 2012 Delhi gang-rape, was a conspiracy to malign the country. Except a handful of moderate voices, Indian parliament reverberated in collective outrage.

YouTube screengrab.YouTube screengrab.

YouTube screengrab.

The film, despite the central government’s ban, made into Indian homes and a few lakhs have reportedly watched it. Was it a conspiracy to tarnish India’s image, particularly when it’s inching towards an 8 percent growth or was it a statement of plain truths to mobilise public opinion? Did it break Indian laws by carrying classified information?

Post the YouTube premiere of the film, the country seems to be divided now. Advocates of free-speech and human rights want the film to be screened so that people know what’s in it while politicians want to block it.

Indians should be happy that BBC 4 made and screened this film because it shamed the country just as the way Channel 4 shamed Sri Lanka. Till the screening of the “Killing Fields”, the international community didn’t have an emotional connect with the victims of the alleged war crimes in the island nation although the UN had made the same startling revelations through statistics. The film changed the Sri Lankan cabal’s image forever and led to concerted action by the international community. The message of the film wasn’t any different from the UN report, but the medium told the story differently.

The same thing is happening with “India’s Daughter” as well. It’s no secret that India has a horrible record of crime against women and that the country is the fourth most dangerous place for women in the world. Rape is one of the most common crimes against women in India and the UN human rights chief had called it a national problem.

Still, Home Minster Rajnath Singh and parliamentarians such as Jaya Bachan are hurt by the documentary, which shows nothing more than what has been said a thousand times before. The only difference, perhaps, is that the rape convict and his lawyers are speaking on camera for the first time, but what they are mouthing is the same anti-women attitude that researchers have found among Indian men time and again.

They are not not saying anything different from what anti-women vigilantes such as Sri Ram Sena and religious bigots regularly say on Indian media – women are the embodiment of family honour and it’s their responsibility to protect it. The convict is saying that good girls should not be on the streets at night and one of the lawyers insist that he will not mind killing his daughter if she violates family honour. India’s record of rapes and honour killings corroborate their regressive views.

By feigning wounded prestige and suspecting conspiracy, what the government, the parliamentarians, politicians and the Indian elite admit to is their thin skin to international criticism even while being thick-skinned to the chilling reality at home. They showed the same shock and rage when VS Naipaul wrote about the “the children, the dirt, the disease, the cries of bakshish, the hawkers, the touts…” in 1964 in An Area of Darkness. He wrote how revulsed he was by the poor Indians defecating everywhere while the rich ones were busy miming the British. Promptly, India had banned the book. Even half a century later, nothing much has changed and half of Indians still defecate in the open and a third of the population are destitute. If one were to make a documentary on Indian poverty and filth, the government will react with the same outrage because they are the ones who suffer of an image problem. Obviously, outrage is an easier response than transformative action.

The elite also has a reason to get outraged because class is what trumps their poor Indianness in front of their international peers, either in their drawing rooms or when they are abroad. A glossy visage of glass, steel and polish is what they will like to present their country as, not as shit-holes or as dens of rapists. Films such as “India’s Daughter” dents their ego just like an epidemic at home makes them vulnerable to airport screenings. The neb-nationalistic Indian diaspora too has the same existential crisis, because it gives the chavs another opportunity to ridicule them. No wonder the urban elite and the diaspora prefer Karan Johar to Anurag Kashyap and Shah Rukh Khan to Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

Ordinary Indians should see through this disingenuousness of the Indian politicians and the elite. India will do better if some of our parliamentarians stop being facetious when faced with issues such as a third of Parliament seats for women and cry foul when somebody holds a mirror to them. Films such as “India Daughter” are important to protect us from the tyranny of the ruling class and the elites. It’s exactly the same way we learn how Saudi Arabia is no better than a Taliban ruled Afghanistan and how democratic movements are crushed by authoritarian rulers even as they make deals in first world capitals.

For the voiceless, naming and shaming is an effective tool of protection and possible reparation. If India is genuinely hurt, let it stop behaving like an ostrich. And don’t make a big deal out of featuring criminals in media; they have been stars in Pulitzer winning journalism.

India’s Daughter: Lawyers get show-cause notice after misogynistic comments

Defence lawyers in the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case, ML Sharma and AP Singh, have been issued a show-cause notice by the Bar Council of India for their derogatory and anti-women remarks in the controversial BBC documentary, India’s Daughter. 

According to this report by Zee News, Sharma and Singh have been given 3 weeks time to explain to the BCI why action shouldn’t be taken against them for their remarks.

“We have issued the show cause notices to ML Sharma and AP Singh for their alleged remarks made in the (BBC) documentary,” said the chairman of BCI, Manan Kumar Mishra.

For the brief while that the documentary was viewable on Youtube, there were several negative remarks made against the lawyers on social media for their comments. The film has been banned from being broadcasted in India.

ML Sharma in a still from India's Daughter.ML Sharma in a still from India's Daughter.

ML Sharma in a still from India’s Daughter.

“Once they file their reply to showcause notice, we will examine and if we find that an enquiry needs to be initiated, then after holding the enquiry, the bar council has the power to revoke licence,” Manan Mishra, Chairman, Bar Council of India told NDTV.

On the other hand, Sharma told ANI, “We have not got the notice from the Bar Council of India as yet. The court has placed a stay on the release of the documentary, and we have not committed any contempt of court, or can we be accused of misconduct.”

He also said that those who have watch the banned documentary are the ones who have committed a contempt of court. He adds that his views have been misinterpreted, and Leslee Udwin has used only bits and pieces of what he said. “She took my interview for 10 days, showed only one line,” he told NDTV.

Sharma’s comments include: “We have the best culture. In our culture there is no place for women,” and “A woman means I immediately put sex in his eyes.”

His stance, however, remains unaltered. “I have only spoken for the safety and security of women. Ladies should be protected from society. Fighting for a female is not crime. I will fight for the rights of women. We should respect our courts. We are certainly going to take action,” he said.

Virtually impossible to block all content of India’s Daughter documentary, say cyber experts

New Delhi: Armed with a judicial order, the government has stepped in to prevent the viewing of the controversial documentary, ‘India’s Daughter’, on the internet but cyber experts believe it may be virtually “impossible” to block its content.

BBC broadcast the documentary — which is based on the 16 December, 2002, gangrape in Delhi — in the UK on Wednesday and the video has since gone viral on the internet. YouTube has, however, begun blocking it after being asked by the Indian government.

Representational image.Representational image.

Representational image.

According to cyber crime experts, it is now very difficult to block all the content.

“Once the video is public, it is impossible to stop the circulation of the interview. There are tools which can search a particular content on the web but complete blocking is difficult.

“Government and police can at the maximum ask the hosting site to block it, but in the cyber world, it will keep popping up,” said Ishan Sinha, a cyber expert who imparts cyber crime training to various state police forces.

The controversy surrounding the interview increased the curiosity among the general public and, following the UK telecast of the 60-minute long video, the film went viral on Youtube, social media and torrent sites even though a court has banned its broadcast in India.

Experts claimed that cops will also have to struggle in finding the origin of video uploads as most of the servers are located abroad.

“Most websites, including the social media ones and WhatsApp, have their servers outside India and they are reluctant to share their logs with the police. As the interview is available on many websites, it is only going to spread further even though the sharing and transfer of a banned video is a violation of the IT act,” said advocate Prashant Mali, a Mumbai-based cyber law and cyber security expert.

The video is already circulating on social media websites.

In the interview conducted by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin and BBC, Mukesh Singh, the driver of the bus in which the 23-year-old paramedical student was brutally gangraped, expresses no remorse for the crime. He has also made derogatory statements against women in the documentary.

Delhi police registered an FIR and obtained a restraining order against the broadcast of the interview.

“We have taken a restraining order from court and informed all concerned that broadcast in any form is not allowed. Any broadcasting and uploading of the video will be violation of the law,” Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi has said.

Cyber experts also expect malware authors to create a malicious script and take advantage of the controversy by uploading a fake video or links with malware.

“There are many links on the torrent which are offering free download, but most of them can be fake. Malware authors take advantage of netizens’ curiosity. Many fake videos were circulated during the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013,” said Sinha.

PTI

India’s Daughter documentary: We need to go beyond BBC’s nauseating moralising

The government’s attempts to restrain the BBC from airing a documentary on rape, built around the story of the December 2012 Delhi gangrape victim (a.k.a. Nirbhaya), are pointless. It has effectively given BBC the opportunity to get higher viewership for their film, titled “India’s Daughter”, whose selling point is obviously the misogynist statements of the rapists (and their lawyers) who were interviewed for it.

The government’s response allows the BBC to adopt a high moral tone on how it is holding a mirror to Indian men’s mindsets. Its tone is superior and nauseating: “This harrowing documentary, made with the full support and cooperation of the victim’s parents, provides a revealing insight into the horrific crime that sent shock waves around the world and led to protests across India demanding changes in attitudes towards women.”

As Indians, we should certainly not fight shy of acknowledging our own failings as a society, much less ban such films. The restraint order by a Delhi court on the screening of the film, however valid legally, demonstrates the impotence of the Indian state, and its inability to uphold its own laws, despite legislating so many of them.

A screengrab from the documentaryA screengrab from the documentary

A screengrab from the documentary

The reason why the BBC documentary offends us is not its essential truth, but the ignominy of an outsider pointing it out to us. I am sure enough Muslims in India would be equally offended if we made a documentary showing how Indian Islam treats its women. The outsider’s critiques are always unpalatable.

At another level, the documentary also illustrates the inability of the Indian state, and its ruling elite, to understand the workings of global power manipulators using money, media and the technology of power and influence to undermine us. The western world knows how to use India’s own umpteen faultlines – of caste, gender and economic inequities – to undermine the emergence of a strong state which can implement the rule of law fearlessly. The west does not want a strong state to develop in India or else its own geopolitical agenda cannot be pursued.

Before one discusses these points, let me make my stand clear on two counts: I am against any kind of ban on media documentaries or artistic work, whatever the motives of its authors or their financial backers. Also, I hold no brief whatsoever for “sick male mindsets” that are a product of centuries of misogyny and patriarchy. Our first job as a society is to speed up the process of ending patriarchy and making boys and men develop genuine respect for women on the basis of equality and a shared partnership for the benefit of society.

But we also need to understand how power equations work globally, and if we do not understand this, we are forever going to be pushed around on the basis of foreign agendas masquerading as concern for human rights. Indians often do not understand when we are fighting injustices in our own society and when we may be furthering someone else’s covert agenda to undermine us.

Take the rule of law and how little we understand it. We should also understand how it will be used against us to show up our weaknesses, while the west will commit the same crimes under the veneer of their rule of law.

Here’s one illustration: Fake encounters to eliminate troublesome criminals or terrorists are illegal both in the Indian and US context. In India, fake encounters are the result of a weak state. The police resort to it in order to overcome the failings of a corrupt and excruciatingly slow legal system and inadequate resources to gather foolproof evidence against criminals and terrorists. Whether it is Punjab, Gujarat or UP, fake encounters have been the short-cuts used to eliminate people against whom we can’t find enough legal evidence to arrest and convict.

The west will use this endlessly against us, helped, in turn, by human rights activists here. But do we know that the US also conducts many such extra-legal assassinations? Do we know that President Obama has himself signed scores of death warrants of people he thinks are terrorists, including American citizens? He has converted the CIA, a spy agency, into an assassination squad, which uses snipers and drones to kill enemies of the US state (read here).

The difference is this: while we will call our killings fake encounters, the US assassinations will be couched in legalities and presidential findings. This is what I call the effective use of the technology of power, where a patently illegal act can be sanctified by using verbal and technological techniques to paint it differently in India and the US.

Take another example. The Indian media and its western counterparts have talked endlessly about the Sangh’s “ghar wapsi” programme – making us cringe with shame. But what is ghar wapsi? A religious reconversion programme that’s been badly handled in front of the media. Can a liberal state ban ghar wapsi when it cannot ban religious propaganda or conversions away from Hinduism? The media painted ghar wapsi as some kind of unmitigated evil, but did not produce even one documentary on what the evangelical organisations are upto. Did the BBC produce any such programme showing the “missionary mindset” and the harm it is doing to societal cohesion in India?

Once again, the point to underscore is this: the west knows how to use media and technology to pursue its own agendas, overt or covert. But we are unable to separate the issues in our own minds. We are poor players in the technology of power, media management and soft influence.

Now, let’s come to the BBC documentary. Consider how the author protects her own country’s laws, but how we are unable to protect ours.

First, we give a foreign reporter access to rapists – an access we would not give to our own journalists. What does this say about our kowtowing to goras? We will subvert our own laws to curry favour with them.

Second, the journalist involved, Leslee Udwin, gets signed consent letters from the rapists before filming their statements on rape. This shows that Udwin knows she has to respect the laws under which the BBC operates. But did she show equal concern for Indian laws beyond obtaining permissions from the home ministry? Did our own government get her to sign a legally valid document specifying what she can do or cannot do with the interview? There may be a general letter somewhere intended to protect a babu’s backside, but it will probably be legally unenforceable against the BBC.

The facts are that Udwin sought the home ministry’s permission to interview the convicts and understand their psyche. The Times of India says Udwin promised to use the footage solely for “social purposes” and give the footage to the authorities for vetting. Apparently only the edited version was shown. But the “social purpose” documentary was then sold to the Beeb. How come the babus in the home ministry did not understand that practically anything can be done in the name of “social purpose.”

Why did the authorities let the crew circumvent procedures? APWhy did the authorities let the crew circumvent procedures? AP

Why did the authorities let the crew circumvent procedures? AP

The question is: When Udwin did everything to follow the law back home in the UK, why did our home ministry not do anything to protect our laws and the rights of the convicts interviewed, when the appeal process is far from over? Such damaging releases of convicts’ statements can work against their appeals, still pending in the Supreme Court, as the judiciary may now feel compelled to uphold the death sentences on these “sick minds”. Would the legal system in the US or UK have allowed such a prejudicial airing of a convict’s views before a verdict? Would defence lawyers not be screaming mistrial and attempts to bias the judge or jury? But we happily do this without regard to the law.

The Times of India quotes feminist lawyer Indira Jaising as claiming that the broadcast of the film “would amount to violation of Article 19(2) of the Constitution, Section 153A of IPC and Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. ‘At present, the defendant’s appeal against conviction and death sentence is pending before the Supreme Court; therefore, airing the documentary would amount to gross contempt of court,’” Jaising wrote to NDTV, which aired promos of the documentary containing the rapist’s statements.

Did the Indian home ministry not know the law before giving Udwin the right to interview convicted rapists? Now, by ham-handedly trying to prevent the BBC from airing it, it will even be accused of trying to curb freedom of speech, and shielding society from the plain unvarnished truth of “men with misogynist mindsets.” Two self-goals in one.

Udwin’s interview to the Hindustan Times shows how well the foreign media establishment will use our own follies against us. Asked why she called the film “India’s Daughter” when the title itself sounds patriarchal, she says: “Yes, but the victim was called India’s Daughter by the press here and we are not allowed to name her in India.”

Fair enough. But the media in India did not call Nirbhaya “India’s Daughter” for the reason she cites. We called her India’s Daughter because the idea evokes a strong cultural sense of protectiveness towards daughters in society, even though in actual practice we don’t protect our vulnerable girls and women. When played abroad, India’s Daughter will sound like an indictment of India and its society. The meaning of the title is subtly different in the Indian and western context. The west will use such documentaries to put us on the backfoot, questioning our intentions and undermining our national resolve to grow our defence or global clout, saying why not spend that money to protect your daughters?

Udwin also suggests that her efforts are unquestionable because “I am a rape victim myself.” The assumption that a victim is best-placed to tell an objective story is questionable. Her own sense of anger might well have made her biased, but we can’t say this without watching the film.

The BBC also says the film was done with the permission of Nirbhaya’s parents. Once again, such permissions mean little. Why would parents seeking justice for their child’s rape and murder not use any forum to air their views? How are they likely to know how the BBC will use their statements in the documentary? The BBC is a product of colonial attitude and funded by the British taxpayer. It loyalties will be to its audience, not India’s interests.

And is the problem our unwillingness to face “male mindsets” or something else? Do we not know what male mindsets are in India? Did we not create an entire commission under Justice JS Verma to look at gender justice? We even legislated a tough law that includes hanging for particularly vicious rape cases. (Read the Verma report here) We don’t need to know what male attitudes are, we need to do something about them.

One reason why we have not acted against injustice as strongly as we should is the weak state, where the state finds it impossible to implement its own laws, given the pushes and pulls of a society with multiple kinds of injustice. A simple law to prescribe reservations for women in parliament is held hostage to OBC and Dalit concerns over their own dis-empowerment: attempts to tackle one injustice come up against another group’s sense of injustice.

Politicians use these faultlines to avoid implementing something that can only have a beneficial impact over the very long term. Our netas see more electoral returns in offering voters private freebies (laptops, tariff cuts) than in providing public goods (law and order, women’s safety). A society split on caste or religious lines is unable to differentiate between action against criminals and actions against “our people, our caste, our religious group.” This is why a Lalu Prasad and J Jayalalithaa or Jagan Reddy, two of them convicted for corruption, continue to win elections.

Sex education, gender sensitisation and cleaning up the justice system are long-term solutions with no immediate political benefits for anybody. Effective policing and sensitive handling of rape and sexual harassment cases may possibly be the only actions that can have visible results in the short term – and these need to get first priority. But in all the anger over “male mindsets”, the inability of a weak state to take long-term corrective action is not seen as central to the issue of gender justice.

The real danger in all this breast-beating over “male mindsets” is that we won’t do the important things that we need to do ensure gender justice. It is only a strong state (which is different from an authoritarian state) that can apply the rule of law and make things work. This needs a state to protect human rights, and not specific community rights, whether based on caste or gender or religion.

In the UK, for years teen girls in Rotherham were subjected to sexual abuse by Pakistani Muslim gangs, but the British police failed to act for fear of being branded “racist.” In other words, even in a society where the rule of law supposedly operates, the law could not prevent injustices to women and vulnerable girls. Udwin could well have written about these “male mindsets”, but India is obviously a more enticing prospect.

The lessons we should draw from the BBC’s documentary on India’s Daughter are these: one, we have to develop a thick skin to their media machinations; two, we should focus on what we have to do to correct the injustices in our system and not be distracted by western moralising; and three, we have to develop our own sophisticated systems of giving it back to them in their own coin by developing long-term studies and capabilities to show up the west’s own hypocrisies.

Right now, they can hold a mirror to us, but we cannot do the same to them. They thus have moral power over us. We have not mastered the technology of power and media to achieve a balance.

People express outrage on Twitter making #IndiasDaughter trend nationwide

The government of India had banned the BBC documentary India’s Daughter, but the BBC decided to go ahead and telecast it ahead of its scheduled time. Now the documentary is all over YouTube, and given the uproar surrounding the documentary, it can be safely assumed many people have watched it.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

There are several links on YouTube where one can see the documentary and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have seen millions of shares.

And along with the telecast of the documentary comes a wave of reactions on Twitter, that has made #IndiasDaughter trend nationwide on the social networking site.

While mostly there is outrage over the remarks of the convict, Mukesh Singh, there are also many who have criticised the government trying to ban the documentary by Leslee Udwin. And there are others who have criticised the documentary for its content.

Here are some of the reactions:

India’s Daughter: We need to look beyond BBC’s nauseating moralising

The government’s attempts to restrain the BBC from airing a documentary on rape, built around the story of the December 2012 Delhi gangrape victim (a.k.a. Nirbhaya), are pointless. It has effectively given BBC the opportunity to get higher viewership for their film, titled “India’s Daughter”, whose selling point is obviously the misogynist statements of the rapists who were interviewed for it.

The government’s response allows the BBC to adopt a high moral tone on how it is holding a mirror to Indian men’s mindsets. Its tone is superior and nauseating: “This harrowing documentary, made with the full support and cooperation of the victim’s parents, provides a revealing insight into the horrific crime that sent shock waves around the world and led to protests across India demanding changes in attitudes towards women.”

As Indians, we should certainly not fight shy of acknowledging our own failings as a society, much less ban such films. The restraint order by a Delhi court on the screening of the film, however valid legally, demonstrates the impotence of the Indian state, and its inability to uphold its own laws, despite legislating so many of them.

A screengrab from the documentaryA screengrab from the documentary

A screengrab from the documentary

The reason why the BBC documentary offends us is not its essential truth, but the ignominy of an outsider pointing it out to us. I am sure enough Muslims in India would be equally offended if we made a documentary showing how Indian Islam treated its women. The outsider’s critiques are always unpalatable.

At another level, the documentary also illustrates the inability of the Indian state, and its ruling elite, to understand the workings of global power manipulations using money, media and the technology of power and influence to undermine us. The western world knows how to use India’s own umpteen faultlines – of caste, gender and economic inequities – to undermine the emergence of a strong state which can implement the rule of law fearlessly. The west does not want a strong state to develop in India or else its own geopolitical agenda cannot be pursued.

Before one discusses these points, let me make my stand clear on two counts: I am against any kind of ban on media documentaries or artistic work, whatever the motives of its authors or their financial backers. Also, I hold no brief whatsoever for “sick male mindsets” that are a product of centuries of misogyny and patriarchy. Our first job as a society is to speed up the process of ending patriarchy and making boys and men develop genuine respect for women on the basis of equality and shared partnership for the benefit of society.

But we also need to understand how power equations work globally, and if we do not understand this, we are forever going to be pushed around on the basis of foreign agendas masquerading as concern for human rights. Indians often do not understand when we are fighting injustices in our own society and when we may be furthering someone else’s covert agenda to undermine us.

Take the rule of law and how little we understand it. We should also understand how it will be used against us to show up our weaknesses, while the west will commit the same crimes under the veneer of their rule of law.

Here’s one illustration: Fake encounters to eliminate troublesome criminals or terrorists are illegal both in the Indian and US context. In India, fake encounters are the result of a weak state, where the police resort to it to overcome the failings of a corrupt and slow legal system and inadequate resources to gather evidence against criminals and terrorists. Whether it is Punjab, Gujarat or UP, fake encounters have been the short-cuts used to eliminate people against whom we can’t find enough legal evidence to arrest and convict.

The west will use this endlessly against us, helped, in turn, by human rights activists here. But do we know that the US directs many such extra-legal assassinations? Do we know that President Obama has himself signed scores of death warrants of people he thinks are terrorists, including American citizens? He has converted the CIA, a spy agency, into an assassination squad, which uses snipers and drones to kill enemies of the US state (read here).

The difference is this: while we will call our killings fake encounters, the US assassinations will be couched in legalities and presidential findings. This is what I call the effective use of the technology of power, where a patently illegal act can be sanctified by using verbal and technological techniques to paint it differently in India and the US.

Take another example. The Indian media and its western counterparts have talked endlessly about the Sangh’s “ghar wapsi” programme – making us cringe with shame. But what is ghar wapsi? A religious reconversion programme that’s been badly handled in front of the media. Can a liberal state ban ghar wapsi when it cannot ban religious propaganda or conversions away from Hinduism? The media painted ghar wapsi” as some kind of unmitigated evil, but did not produce one documentary on what the evangelical organisations are upto? Did the BBC produce one programme showing the “missionary mindset” and the harm it is doing to societal cohesion in India?

Once again, what is apparent is that the west knows how to use media and technology to pursue its own agendas, overt or covert. But we are unable to separate the issues in our own minds. We are poor players in the technology of power, media management and soft influence.

Now, let’s come to the BBC documentary. Consider how the author protects her own country’s laws, but how we are unable to protect ours.

First, we give a foreign reporter access to rapists – an access we would not give to our own journalists. What does this say about our kowtowing to gora skin? We will subvert our own laws to curry favour with them.

Second, the journalist involved, Leslee Udwin, gets signed consent letters from the rapists before filming their statements on rape. This shows that Udwin knows she has to respect the laws under which the BBC operates. But did she show equal concern for Indian laws beyond obtaining permissions from the home ministry? Did our own government get her to sign a legally valid statement specifying what she can do or cannot do with the interview. There may be a general letter somewhere intended to protect a babu’s backside, but it will probably be legally unenforceable against the BBC.

The facts are that Udwin sought the home ministry’s permission to interview the convicts and understand their psyche. The Times of India says Udwin promised to use the footage solely for “social purposes” and give the footage to the authorities for vetting. Apparently only the edited version was shown. But the “social purpose” documentary was then sold to the Beeb. How come the babus in the home ministry did not understand that practically anything can be done in the name of “social purpose.”

Why did the authorities let the crew circumvent procedures? APWhy did the authorities let the crew circumvent procedures? AP

Why did the authorities let the crew circumvent procedures? AP

The question is: When Udwin did everything to follow the law back home in the UK, why did our home ministry not do anything to protect our laws and the rights of the convicts interviewed, when the appeal process is far from over? Such damaging releases of convicts’ statements can work against their appeal, still pending in the Supreme Court, as the judiciary will now feel compelled to uphold the death sentence on these “sick minds”. Would the legal system in the US or UK have allowed such a prejudicial airing of a convict’s views before a verdict? Would defence lawyers not be screaming mistrial and attempts to bias the judge or jury? But we happily do this without regard to the law.

The Times of India quotes feminist lawyer Indira Jaising as claiming that the broadcast of the film “would amount to violation of Article 19(2) of the Constitution, Section 153A of IPC and Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. ‘At present, the defendant’s appeal against conviction and death sentence is pending before the Supreme Court, therefore, airing the documentary would amount to gross contempt of Court,’” Jaising wrote to NDTV, which aired promos of the documentary containing the rapist’s statements.

Did the Indian home ministry not know the law before giving Udwin the right to interview convicted rapists? Now, by ham-handedly trying to prevent the BBC from airing it, it will even be accused of trying to curb freedom of speech, and shielding society from the plain unvarnished truth of “men with misogynist mindsets.” Two self-goals in one.

Udwin’s interview to the Hindustan Times shows how well the foreign media establishment will use our own follies against us. Asked why she called the film “India’s Daughter” when the title itself sounds patriarchal, she says: “Yes, but the victim was called India’s Daughter by the press here and we are not allowed to name her in India.”

Fair enough. But the media in India did not call Nirbhaya “India’s Daughter” for the reason she cites. We called her India’s Daughter because the idea evokes a strong cultural sense of protectiveness towards daughters in society, even though in actual practice we don’t protect our vulnerable girls and women. When played abroad, India’s Daughter will sound like an indictment of India and our society. The meaning of the title is subtly different in the Indian and western context. The west will use such documentaries to put us on the backfoot, questioning our intentions and undermining our national resolve to grow our defence or global clout, saying what spending money to protect your daughters.

Udwin also says that her efforts are unquestionable because “I am a rape victim myself.” The assumption that a victim is best-placed to tell an objective story is questionable. Her own sense of anger might well have made her biased, but we can’t say this without watching the film.

The BBC also says the film was done with the permission of Nirbhaya’s parents? Once again, such permissions mean little. Why would parents seeking justice for their child’s rape and murder not use any forum to air their views? How are they likely to know how the BBC will use the documentary? The BBC is a product of colonial attitude and funded by the British taxpayer. It loyalties will be to its audience, not India’s interests.

And is the problem our unwillingness to face “male mindsets” or something else? Do we not know what male mindsets are in India? Did we not create an entire commission under Justice JS Verma to look at gender justice? We even legislated a tough law that includes hanging for particularly vicious rape cases. (Read the Verma report here)

One reason why we have not acted against injustice as strongly as we should is the weak state, where the state finds it impossible to implement its own laws, given the pushes and pulls of a society with multiple senses of injustice. A simple law to prescribe reservations for women in parliament is held hostage to OBC and Dalit concerns over their own dis-empowerment – attempts to tackle one injustice comes up with another group’s sense of injustice.

Politicians use these fault-lines to avoid implementing something that can only have an beneficial impact over the very long term. A society split on caste or religious lines is unable to differentiate between action against criminals and actions against “our people, our caste, our religious group.” This is why a Lalu Prasad and J Jayalalithaa or Jagan Reddy, two of them convicted for corruption, continue to win elections.

Things like sex education, gender sensitisation and cleaning up the justice system are long-term solutions with no immediate political gains to anybody. Effective policing and sensitive handling of rape and sexual harassment cases may possibly be the only actions that can have visible results in the short term. But in all the anger over “male mindsets”, the inability of a weak state to take long-term corrective action is not seen as central to the issue of gender justice.

The real danger in all this breast-beating over “male mindsets” is the long-term inability of the state and society to do anything about injustice. It is only a strong state (which is different from an authoritarian state) that can apply the rule of law and make things work. This needs a state to protect human rights, and not specific community rights, whether based on caste or gender or religion.

In the UK, for years teen girls in Rotherham were subjected to sexual abuse by Pakistani Muslim gangs, but the British police failed to act for fear of being branded “racist.” In other words, even in a society where the rule of law supposedly operates, the law could not prevent injustices to women and vulnerable girls.

The lessons we should draw from the BBC’s documentary on India’s Daughter is simple: one, we have to develop a thick skin to their media machinations; two, we should focus on what we have to do to correct the injustices in our system and not be distracted by western moralising; and three, we have to develop our own sophisticated systems of giving it back to them in their own coin by developing long-term studies and capabilities to show up the west’s own hypocrisies.

Right now, they can hold a mirror to us, but we cannot do the same to them. They thus have moral power over us. We have not mastered the technology of power and media to achieve a balance.

Log kya kahenge: Real reason we don’t want Dec 16 BBC documentary aired

India’s Daughter is doing something that Indians fear. It’s washing our dirty laundry in public. India’s Daughter might as well have been called India’s Shame.

Rape has become India’s Number 1 black mark in the world outside, tourist advisories and all. Had Mukesh Singh spoken to an Indian channel, there would have been some tut-tutting and some shock and dismay but we would have gone back to programming as usual. But a BBC documentary makes our worst “log kya kahenge” nightmares come true.

No wonder India is up in arms. Rajnath Singh, the Home Minister has said he has asked authorities to stop broadcast of the documentary scheduled for March 8. “The producers of documentary on Nirbhaya were required to take approval from jail authorities before the telecast but they did not do so,” tweeted Singh’s office.

Singh promised that the government will “institute an inquiry into this incident and responsibility will be fixed.” Ambika Soni of the Congress wants to know how the documentary make got permission to interview the convict inside Tihar jail.

A still from India's Daughter.A still from India's Daughter.

A still from India’s Daughter.

With all due respect to the HMO, is that the real problem here? Are the bureaucratic logistics of getting an interview (even 26 hours of footage) with a man convicted of rape the most serious problem? That sounds more like the excuse based upon which the documentary can be kept off the airwaves because powers-that-be find it embarrassing.

The real problem is that something as horrible as this rape has morphed into a point of cultural pride and national honour. We can debate about the ethics of giving a convict like Singh a platform or even the ethics about persuading him to speak. Udwin has said Singh’s mother persuaded him to speak and Kavita Krishnan asks on Scroll if it was ethical to use a distraught mother who probably thought she was helping her condemned son. Whether such a film should be aired while the convicts’ sentences are being appealed is a separate legal issue as well.

But leaving those arguments aside, 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. The outrage should be that too many Indians who may not brutalize women with iron rods also subscribe to many of his beliefs. As Kavita Krishnan writes in DailyO the words of Mukesh Singh could be plucked from the lips of religious guru Asaram Bapu. “Even the phrase ‘it takes two hangs to clap’ and suggestions that the rapists would have left the victim alone had she not fought back, are almost word for word what Asaram notoriously said about the December 16 rape.” Every time a police officer or a politician finds excuses for a rape – she was out too late, she was out alone, she was out with too many men, she was wearing a skirt, she had a drink – they are bolstering the convictions of a man like Mukesh Singh.

The restraining order against the film says “British filmmaker Leslee Udwin from BBC interviewed Mukesh Singh… in which he had made offensive and derogatory remarks against women creating an atmosphere of fear and tension with the possibility of public outcry and law and order situation.”

But if Singh was one rotten sociopathic apple we would not care that much. What we really fear about this documentary is that Mukesh Singh’s words come too close for comfort. That it would prove as filmmaker Leslee Udwin says it’s not just about a “few rotten apples” but that the “entire barrel is rotten”. And could our national pride digest that? All those arguments about why India’s Daughter should not be aired thus become convenient fig leaves for a greater discomfort – that India’s Daughter nakedly exposes India’s Shame.

It is a grossly misplaced sense of national pride that still places the burden of shame squarely on the rape victim. The restraining order on the film is an exercise in cultural nationalism as patriarchy, plain and simple. This is exactly what discourages real action on sexual violence because the family, the community and now the country’s government would rather draw a veil of silence over deeply shameful acts like this. But this should never have been about the rape victim’s shame. She has nothing to be ashamed of. “If I was raped, I’m not ashamed.The shame isn’t mine, it is that of my rapist. Therefore we must come out and talk,” Udwin tells DNA.

The real shame here is we do not do enough about it. And if that rankles that’s just what it should do because the other name for that kind of “shame” is conscience.