I just watched the ‘India’s Daughter’ documentary. News flash for the Government of India – in this age of the Internet, banning a video will only ensure that everybody and their mother, daughter or, oh god what a travesty, girl friend, will watch it. More on that later.
The whole episode of the video, the initial outrage, a news channel promoting the video with its usual sensationalism, TV debates and the subsequent ‘action’ taken by the government of India reeks of so many things that are bothersome.
First we had the outrage over the fact that Mukesh Singh was interviewed and given a voice through this film before anybody had even watched the documentary. Yes he is a rapist. Yes he is likely a psychopath for doing what he did. Yes I hated the idea that such a monster’s views were being given airtime by the BBC in the name of women liberation. But how many people had actually seen what he had to say before jumping to conclusions? (I am guilty as well.) There was a lot of wrong shown in the documentary and Mukesh Singh’s views were the least of it.
Isn’t this behaviour symbolic of our social-media fuelled times of instant outrage? A news update comes in and everyone rushes to register genuine or (mostly) feigned outrage. It’s a race to be the first mover, from channels eager to claim that they ‘broke’ the news to Twitterati who are fast becoming a newer version of mainstream media, where judgements are pronounced without any fact or evidence.
Second, in keeping with the knee-jerk reactions, why did the government of India have to ban the documentary and gather much unneeded egg on its face? That too, a ban with ostensible reasons related to technicalities around approval not sought for commercial use or what not. Come on now. We really need to stop this censorship culture and treat our people like adults. In a country where every other boy on the road is mouthing praises to random people’s mothers or sisters, we try to be a nanny state where TV channels are supposed to beep out relatively harmless words? A country where male genitalia is on display around every corner because we just fling it out to pee against any wall or tree, but god forbid if a foreign channel dares to show some ‘indecent activity’.
Time to stop being an Ostrich and wake up. Banning doesn’t work. It just helps people become get their fifteen minutes of fame.
Thirdly, there’s the whole angle of the white man’s burden. Of slumdog voyeurism. Of how the west may have its own evils but pretends to actually care about what’s happening in India and how much of a terrible society we are. I am so tempted to say ‘we may be f*cked, but please leave us alone. Go take care of the rapes in your own country. Don’t worry about our lack of tolerance for minorities but stop Black atrocities first.’
But then, I think – Is that such a bad thing? If a foreigner making this damning documentary helps spread awareness and puts some pressure on India to mend its ways, then maybe that’s just what we need.
Most importantly, there’s no running from it. India and its men carry some truly regressive attitudes about women. I’ve heard senior managers in prominent companies say they never hire women because they are not good enough. I have also heard of young girls being killed by their own families in Haryana in the name of ‘honour’. I have read reports of 2-year old girls getting raped by their neighbours. I have seen stats of how a large proportion of all Indian women face sexual harassment at some point of their lives. Surely nothing to be proud of.
It’s a vicious cocktail of Neanderthal male mindsets, legal delays, lack of education and police ineptitude. The Nirbhaya (Jyoti) case led to unprecedented protests and public outpouring of our anguish, but what changed once all the candles burnt out and the protesters went back to being housewives, shopkeepers or college students? Have rapes stopped? Have we started deciding cases quicker and sending rapists off for their punishments? If after all the outrage back in 2012, even the Nirbhaya case is still pending a Supreme Court decision then what happens to lesser cases that don’t get so much public attention? Justice delayed is justice denied, after all.
If we have the defence lawyer for the Nirbhaya rape accused proudly claim that he would burn his daughter alive if she goes around with some male, then what more proof do we need that there is no place in our society for women and we think of them just as objects to be subjugated and conquered, which leads to the whole rape culture.
I don’t care if this documentary ended up embarrassing India. I don’t care if BBC and the west are hypocrites of the highest order. All I want is an India that is safe for my daughter. I hope that is not too much to ask of our government and society.