“Ten seconds into the video, I was overcome. I had to stop as I needed to throw up,” activist Sunitha Krishnan tells NDTV, tracing how the idea of the “Shame the Rapist” campaign occurred to her.
The video, which is now beaming across news channels, is an edited version of a WhatsApp forward which had footage of a woman being raped by eight men. The men are seen smiling at the camera, presumably the phone camera, as they take turns to assault the woman. Krishnan edited the video and cut a version where the faces of the men are visible whereas the woman and her body have been blurred. She then uploaded it on YouTube and tweeted it out.
As the copy was being typed, after being in circulation for about a day, the video seems to have been deleted. However, some TV channels have been airing edited versions of the video alongside interviews of Krishnan.
Krishnan’s intent is pretty straightforward – she wanted to to take a strategy by sexual offenders and perverts to shame the victim and turn it on its head and get the perpetrators arrested.
However, she ended up retaining parts of the act of sexual assault, thereby making the video deeply disturbing despite the intent behind uploading it. Let’s give credit where it’s due – the reason that we are now familiar with the faces of the rapists is because Krishnan took the trouble to edit and upload the version of a video everyone else was simply forwarding. It might just help the police nab the rapists who have been roaming free till now, since there is no information about either the place or time of the assault.
However, what made the video, the unedited version, travel through several WhatsApp users and then land in Krishnan’s phone? Was it concern for the victim? Obviously not. In that case, it would have been reported long before Krishnan made efforts to trace the culprits. The bitter truth is that between titillation and responsibility, India chooses the former with alarming frequency. That’s exactly why the video, in which it is evident that a woman is being forced into a sexual act, circulated several hundred times till it reached someone who brought it up with Krishnan.
Krishnan’s reaction, understandably stems from deep anger and revulsion, almost an eye for an eye sentiment, where she felt compelled to shame the culprits. She uploaded the video clearly to underline the monstrosity of the act and to emphasise how the culprits were remorseless and seemed to have no fear of consequences. However, let the truth be told, many of the hits that the video received came from the same perverse eagerness which led the original video circulate with no one complaining to the police. Krishnan must have realised where she had tripped and withdrew the video from YouTube immediately. Despite her best intentions, the video contributed to the voyeur fest.
It is not clear if Krishnan has lodged a formal complaint with the police, because that is the only legal way the criminals can be brought to book. Also, unless a formal complaint is lodged, no one will report the culprits out of their own volition – the fact that they are roaming free despite a video of them doing the rounds is reason enough to be sure of Indian complacence.
Also, what about all those people who helped circulate the video and made it thrive? In a country where several women are raped everyday, should it not be criminal to witness a crime like that and keep completely quiet about it? Is it convenient and practical to not talk about it? Perhaps yes, in our warped society. Watching a 8-minute video showing a woman getting gangraped and not reporting it, is that not wrong? Absolutely.
Maybe there were a few more effective things Krishan could have done. Like taken just screengrabs of the culprits and registered a complaint with the police. Or tried to trace back the chain of WhatsApp forwards and reported it to the cyber crime department in her vicinity to help nab the people who helped in circulating the video and silencing the victim.