It is impossible to not have moist eyes after viewing the Chanel 4 BBC documentary ‘India’s Daughter’. The movie had the desired effect - a sordid revulsion against the heinous things man is capable of! It is the touching story of the young girl and her parents who suffered so that India will be shocked into action. A story has different voices. I see the interview with the rapist as part of a narrative that exposes the dark side of society- not as a platform for justification. Unfortunately, a large section (mostly males) have seen it as being anti national. Somewhere, we have missed the wood for the trees!
My daughter, who is the same age as the unfortunate victim of the gruesome rape in 2012, called me up on the same day the documentary was released to express her angst at the move to ban or restrict the showing of the visual drama. As a woman and a lawyer my daughter should know better than those who wish to hide the story of a young girl in a city- not different from her background. At the end of the documentary, the father reveals with candor the name of his daughter while the rest of the country still goes on with the charade of a pseudonym that is meaningless to the family or her memory. Why are the government and a segment of the media so concerned about the revelation of her identity, when her own parents want to honor her life and death so that others will not suffer? In fact this ostrich like attitude of our leaders and our media is the reason why we cannot confront our demons. I purposefully said ‘our demons’ because, in one of the interviews in the documentary, Gopal Subramaniam, the former Solicitor General, explains how the women who testified before the Justice Verma commission said in unison that “the perpetrators are our people”. This is the bitter truth. The justification of Mukesh Singh, one of the rapists, can at best be the narrow vision of a closed society that veils and mistreats its women in the name of ‘Indian Culture’. I can see where that opinion is coming from- Ignorance, deprivation, poverty and a system that objectifies women as commodities! What I cannot forgive is the attitude of the defense lawyers. Granted, it was their duty to defend their clients. But what they revealed to the camera is the twisted mind of a patriarchal society that has reduced women to mere decorations. One of them called ML Sharma in almost poetic cadence describes women with ‘flowery’ metaphors and predicts their fate on their literal use- worshiped in the temple and crushed in a gutter! He therefore prescribes a curfew of 6.30 PM for women to ensure that the men will be ‘good’. His lawyer colleague A P Singh brazenly says on camera that he would burn to death the female members of his family if they misbehaved. It is unfortunately the mindset of a large number of our people including leaders and religious heads who have said it without fear on our television channels before. It is important that these devious opinions come out into the open- not hide them from the world in the name of ‘Indian pride’. So, why are we so scared to look at the blemishes on our social mirror? This documentary revelation should help us understand the lurking dangers even within our so called educated class so that we can protect our women. Closing our ears to the rabid voices of some of our own, is not the answer.
I was shocked to hear Meenakshi Lekhi, BJP MP, on TV saying that her concern was the ‘Image of India’. For a country that has a rape happening every 20 minutes we are concerned about what others think about us, not what we do to ourselves! That is the problem with a certain kind of nationalism founded on pride and past glory and espoused by certain political parties. The argument that this happens in other parts of the world is true, but it is a tepid excuse to ban a documentary that delves into the heart of our hypocrisy.
The transparency of the Nuremberg trials in post war Germany, exposed the genocide by the Nazi leadership. Herman Goering and Rudolf Hess were given a chance justify their actions of killing a million Jews and telecasted it to the world on news reels! It was important that the world knew of such monsters. More importantly it was important that Germany knew what happened to its citizens in that horrific period. Nobody was shamed in the process! I hope this documentary does the same and……. Give her back her name!