By Riti Das Dhankar
We live in a bubble. We read news of rapes, molestation, and violence against women and think them to be happening in a parallel universe. Not in ours. We live in a bubble until life happens.
Since the past couple of days, I had been following the heated debates on the news channels to ban Leslee Udwin’s documentary, “India’s Daughter”, made on Jyoti, also widely known as Nirbhaya, who was brutally gang-raped and fatally injured on 16 December, 2012. People blamed the BBC of being biased, trying to malign India, trying to glorify rape, and trying to glorify the rapists.
My first reaction was instinctual and I was convinced that the British were again trying to harm our country and its image.
I felt anger until my sane side urged me to at least first see the documentary before going on a blaming spree. So, I turned to the magic of internet and downloaded the documentary from YouTube. I could have just watched it online but I was not sure if the government would suddenly decide to take it down and ban it. (As in the case of AIB roast. I repent not downloading it; the cut version I mean because all the jokes on Modi did not even make it to the “controversial” version that was uploaded). My fears did come true. The documentary has been since taken off YouTube at the request of the Indian government.
I experienced goosebumps, tears, anger, frustration, and immense sadness while watching the 59-minute long documentary. Unlike what most of the news channels are trying to portray, the documentary is not about the rapists, it does not glorify them, it does not give India a bad name, and it is definitely not an attempt to malign our country (we do not need foreign powers to do that. We are quite there, if you know what I mean). The documentary simply showed some facts and revealed some hard hitting, bitter truths. We can’t always paint the world rosy because the world is not rosy. Especially, ours.
The documentary starts with a message, “A Delhi court has blocked the showing of the film in India” (democracy eh?). Also, it provides startling information, which is quite familiar by now: “A woman is raped in India every 20 minutes.” This is what I would call, stating facts. The 59-min long film carefully documents the case, shows interviews of Jyoti’s parents, the pain and agony they went through, her tutor, her doctors who recalled Jyoti giving all the information she could in spite of being in immense pain so that the culprits are punished, the police, the people who fought to amend the laws, it’s process and the outcome, the man who helped Jyoti and her friend while they lay on the road and the horror he felt when he first saw her lying there in a pool of blood with her insides spilled out and the rapists, the family members of the 6 rapists and the defense lawyers.
In my opinion, the defense lawyers stole the show by shamelessly and unabashedly unraveling their sub-human mentality. The statements, “women are like flowers who need protection and men are like thorns” and “in our society we never allow girls to come out in the evening with unknown person” and “if my daughter goes out with someone not her husband and has male friends and spoils her character, I would personally burn her in front of my whole family in my farm house” are not coming from the rapists. They are, in fact, uttered by the “well educated” defense lawyers. In the eyes of the law, they are not criminals and cannot be punished. But in the social context, they are the exact living proof of what is wrong with our society.
One could always have a debate on the patriarchal nature of the name of the documentary but it does not malign our country. It does what it is supposed to do. It shows the harsh reality, the ugly truth, and a case that shook the nation. It shows India needs to change, the people need to change, the systems need to be efficient, and the mentality has to change.
“India’s Daughter” does nothing but act like a mirror and by boycotting and banning it, we Indians are doing nothing but giving a loud and clear message that we don’t like to see what we have become.
Riti Das Dhankar is a freelance writer. She is doing her PhD in Psychology from Jaipur, where she completed her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.
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