Answer by Juhi Singh:
I will quote The Hindu article No leg to stand on and one of my previously written answer Is the ban imposed on the recent BBC documentary “India’s Daughter” justified? Juhi Singh’s answer to Will the documentary on Nirbhaya actual defame India and is it morally right to air it?
No leg to stand on:
“India’s Daughter is a powerful and sensitive documentary that is part of a global campaign against rape, violence against women, and gender inequality. It explores the life and dreams of an extraordinary young woman, brutally ended. The tension between her story and the outrageously reactionary social attitudes expressed on camera gives the documentary its power. The government’s ban has no leg, social, moral, or legal, to stand on
It takes a special political talent and habit of mind to ban something that you haven’t seen, that the rest of the world will not just see but is set to centre-stage as part of a global campaign against rape, other forms of violence against women, and gender inequality. The grounds cited to justify the government’s decision to ban India’s Daughter, Leslee Udwin’s documentary on the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case and the responses to it, which NDTV was scheduled to broadcast on International Women’s Day, suggest a pathology of arbitrariness, irrationality, fact-denial, and confusion. To be fair, the vilification of the film, sight unseen, and why and how it was made came not just from the government but also from other political parties, some feminists, and, of course, rival television channels.
If over-the-top allegations such as “a conspiracy to defame India” can be ignored, the grounds cited to justify the ban narrow down to three. They are that
(a) broadcasting or otherwise disseminating India’s Daughter, and especially the interview with Mukesh Singh, the convicted rapist and killer, will threaten public order by “encouraging and inciting violence against women,” instilling fear in them, and leading to “a huge public outcry and serious law and order problem”;
(b) providing a platform for a man convicted of rape and murder to “use the media to further his own case” when an appeal is pending in the Supreme Court of India is sub judice; and
(c) the “permission conditions” laid down by the Tihar jail administration were “violated” by the documentary film-maker.
Let us take up each objection in turn.
India’s Daughter is a powerful, sensitive, and well-crafted exploration of the life and dreams of Nirbhaya and her progressive and nurturing working class family who sold ancestral land and made other sacrifices to see her through her para-medical education. The central, liberating theme of the documentary, a simple statement that a narrator attributes to Nirbhaya, is “a girl can do anything.” The tension between a life shaped by this unshakeable inner conviction and heart-rendingly cut short and the outrageously reactionary social attitudes, expressed without the slightest inhibition and captured on camera, gives India’s Daughter its power. The central narrators are Nirbhaya’s parents who want her story to be told, real name, provenance, and all. The unprecedented outpourings of solidarity and protest on the streets, led by young women and girls who confront the police with no thought of physical safety and are deterred neither by water cannons nor tear gas shells, offer the documentary a cathartic start. There is no editorializing but the message comes through.
As for motive, the test of any creative work is sincerity. Can there be any doubt after watching India’s Daughter that the film-maker was inspired by the tremendous response on the streets of India, which gave hope to her personally and to rape victims and campaigners against gender inequality and violence against women around the world?
What about the interviews with Mukesh Singh and the two defence lawyers? Indian authorities, who assigned guilt by transference to the film for the convict’s lack of remorse and for his “chauvinistic and derogatory view regarding women in general and the victim in particular,” have been acting as though interviews and interactions with convicted criminals were something new to journalism and documentary film-making. Literary journalism has thrived on such forays into the world and mind of those who have committed the most heinous crimes. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is one of the finest works in the genre and is sometimes called the original non-fiction novel. It is the story of the massacre in 1959 of a farmer, his wife, and two of their children by two hardened criminals, Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock and Perry Smith. The writer, who was given unusual access, did several interviews with both killers after they were convicted and came up with an unforgettable psychological portrait of capital crime. The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer, which re-tells in spare, non-judgmental prose the story of a double murderer, Gary Gilmore, is another celebrated work in the same genre, although Mailer took a different route to his material from Capote.
Journalists and film-makers rarely take the straight route to the material they are determined to get. Textbooks on investigative journalism, and the canons of literary non-fiction, make an allowance for the use of deception when it comes to gaining access to otherwise inaccessible material — provided the pursuit is in the public interest.
“Can there be any doubt that the film-maker was inspired by the tremendous response on the streets of India, which gave hope to her personally and to rape victims and campaigners around the world? ”
I have been given access to all the material communications between the documentary film-maker and the authorities and they establish that at no stage did Ms Udwin resort to deception. She made it clear from the start that she would like to gain access to the convicts in the Nirbhaya case. In her first official letter, dated July 22, 2013, co-signed by an Indian director, to Vimla Mehra, Director-General (Prisons), New Delhi, Ms Udwin sought the jail administration’s help with a documentary film “we are committed to making in the public interest” that would go deep into “the issue of gender-based violence against women in India” and help “understand mindsets that indulge in such heinous crimes all over the world.” She requested permission to interview convicts of gender violence in Tihar Jail (after obtaining their consent, of course) “as the basis of a documentary that dares to go beyond the ordinary in understanding the issue from the source of the action.” She got lucky with Mukesh Singh and there can be little doubt that without the interview with him, her documentary would have none of the power it has.
The question whether this interview was sub judice has been answered clearly in a statement issued by the Editors Guild of India opposing the ban. “The Nirbhaya incident,” the Editors Guild has pointed out, “has been an obvious matter of public interest and has been through all the stages of investigation, trial, and confirmation by the High Court, been subject to a widespread public debate and discussion, protests and demonstrations, and enquiry by the Justice Verma Commission that suggested reform of the law. To raise the issue of sub judice now at the stage of final appeal in the Supreme Court and seek to still discussion is absurd. Judges, particularly in the Supreme Court, are by training and temperament immune to the happenings in the public sphere outside the court, and it is an insult to the Supreme Court to suggest that the airing of the convict’s perverted views would tend to interfere with the course of justice.”
Finally, did the documentary film-maker violate “permission conditions,” as Home Minister Rajnath Singh has alleged in Parliament? A close reading of the relevant papers establishes that this is one of those rare cases where compliance with the procedures and conditions precedent was flawless every step of the way.
The government has withheld from the public the fact that the original condition laid down, in an official letter, dated July 26, 2013, from the office of the Director General (Prisons) that permission was being given for “releasing the documentary film which is being made for purely social purposes without any commercial interest” was dropped after the film-maker wanted a change in the language. That letter was superseded by another, dated August 20, 2013, from the Superintendent (Jails), Prison Headquarters, Tihar, which laid down the condition that “the complete unedited, raw footage of the shoot in the Tihar Jail premises will be shown to the Delhi Prison Administration to ensure there is no breach of Prison security.”
The subsequent official correspondence establishes that in December 2013, Ms Udwin brought some 13 hours of raw, unedited footage recorded within Tihar Jail for screening before the review committee but after viewing it over two days, December 9 and 10, the committee discovered nothing negative that could lead to a breach of prison security. However, finding the reviewing task too taxing, it requested a shortened version of the footage. The editing work took some time and during this period, with regime change happening in New Delhi, the Prison Administration seems to have got cold feet. Numerous emails and letters from Ms Udwin and her lawyers went unanswered and finally in June 2014, when “cut-down material” running for about 15 minutes, which would be the only footage going into the documentary, was screened before the reviewing committee, some editorial objections were raised that had nothing to do with the conditions laid down.
The Central government needs to realize that its objections to India’s Daughter have no leg, social, moral, or legal, to stand on and that the longer it is in denial about this, the more embarrassing it will get for India’s image in the world, on the gender and free speech questions. The Prime Minister would do well to undo the retrograde ban immediately, failing which he could allow it to lapse when it is challenged in the Supreme Court, as it surely will be.”
Juhi Singh’s answer to Will the documentary on Nirbhaya actual defame India and is it morally right to air it?
“Well, the moment I found the link I saw it … & shared it … for I knew its gonna be exclusive and everyone must watch!
& thus, after watching it if I shared it, I don’t think it was any wrong for others to see it.
Now, lets come to the ban.
Why ban on movie? Source: Nirbhaya documentary row: Why Modi Government’s decision to ban film can’t be justified
Following an outrage over the documentary, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the government has taken necessary action to stop the telecast of a documentary based on the interview with a convict in the Dec 16 gang-rape case.
Making a statement in the Rajya Sabha, the Home Minister said government condemns the December 16, 2012 incident and will not allow to leverage such incidents for commercial use.
While announcing a blanket ban on its telecast, Singh said comments made in the documentary are “highly derogatory and an affront to the dignity of women.”
On facebook, there runs a Dr. Subramanian Swamy page which has shared following views about the ban (I am not sure if it is a genuine one or views of any self proclaimed administrator):
Why are the fingers being pointed at Indian men ? How many do you know in your friend circle who endorse the views of the rapists and their lawyer ?
Rape is a sensitive subject and needs a collective conscience of our entire society. It’s a blot on our nation, our way of life. But while we’re working this out, trying to find ways to make amends – there comes a commie with a propaganda and shows the world —“This is what Indian men and their CULTURE (read- ‘regressive backward Hindutva’) is all about”.
And what did you really expect when a commie like Dibang co-produces it and NDTV was going to air it ?
“..wait, you’ve got it wrong, I’ve seen the documentary it’s just an honest attempt to explore the …. blah blah”
Yes we’ve seen it too by now (thanks to Youtube) and as expected the entire world press is taking full liberty in making the same interpretation that we mentioned above. Because hey – that was the real intention, we on this side of the border see through it or not.
I’m finding it funny that our government & a learned person like Subramaniyan Swamy find the ban justified and, they find the documentary an attack on Indian culture!
Now, I want to take up both the points from my perspective and prove how it isNOT an attack on Indian culture and how the ban is not justified:
1. Well, I too love Indian culture and would have protested if that documentary was derogatory of women or Indian culture in any way. (Read Juhi Singh’s answer to Should the AIB Knockout be banned?)
2. Anyways, they found it derogatory about Indian women but they didn’t find following derogatory:
a) Lot of speeches (HATE SPEECHES) by Praveen Togadia (despite being a Doctor!) are being aired – Isn’t that derogatory for minorities living in India??
and Owaisi gets arrested … why is that so??? Is it a selective law? If Owaisi gets arrested so should Praveen Togadia! If his public speaking is banned so should Togadia’s!
b) & so should Sadhvi Niranjan – profanity issues …
c) & so should Satyapal Singh (Police commissioner), Asaram Bapu (Godman, alleged rapist himself), Vibha Rao (Chairperson Women commission!!!!!), Abu Azmi (SP MLA Indian politician), Ashok Singhal (leader of VHP), Mohan Bhagwat (Chief RSS), Khaps of Haryana, Abhijeet Mukherjee (The infamous son of famous President of India), Mamta Baneerjee (CM WB), Mulayam Singh Yadav (Ex – CM UP and father of current CM UP) and so on (22 Comments About Rape That Will Make You Really Angry) for being derogatory to women!
3. After reading today’s newspaper I realized Mulayam Singh has been detected with Swine flu … my 1st thought was he should die! No, I am not a sadist or person with criminal mind … but it seethes me how a person who can think “Ladke hai galti ho jati hai” on issue like rape would be ex – CM of UP and his son is present CM of UP. We all know Indian culture too well, to assume this safely that parents inculcate values in their progeny! Yes, there are exceptions but I am sure Akhilesh has not shown any such signs…. However, on a second thought on that news item, I felt him dying is not the solution… that mentality has to die
5. Now, I would like to reply to Subramanian Swamy or that self proclaimed administrator on his question “How many do you know in your friend circle who endorse the views of the rapists and their lawyer ?” – Well I just mentioned some 23 people who have endorsed the views of the lawyer and not only me but many people know them. Would you ban them?
6. After having answered to his question, I have a question for him from his own statement “It’s a blot on our nation, our way of life. But while we’re working this out, trying to find ways to make amends”
Do facts about a country blot it? And where are the amends happening?
Is it too demeaning for you to accept that India has many reported as well unreported rapes happening? & that thinking of not only general public but also people who head women commission needs the change! & that Nirbhaya was really an incident which not only was gruesome but became a movement against such people and duddy fuudy Indian culture – Women should wear purdah, not come out of houses, if something happens shouldn’t fight back & blah!
7. And now my question to Our home minister who seems to be the protector of culture etc. … via moral policing – “comments made in the documentary are highly derogatory and an affront to the dignity of women.” REALLY???? Exposing the mentality of rapist and that hanging him in public wouldn’t have been too much and that this is where we need to start making change else there would be no stop …. that’s derogatory & should be banned? How about paying a little heed to my point no. 2?
Well, to end it I don’t think the ban is at all justified if there is no ban on such mentality (& the speeches and such acts of rape or crime against women are outcome of those mentality). To add to it, it is a country of freedom of speech and expression, who are you to decide whether it is derogatory or not? Let us decide what we find derogatory for us and we will surely take it up at India gate, Ram Leela maidan, Gateway of India or any such public place … and let me also tell u .. it is not anarchy .. it is aspiration of people’s (Unmet Demand versus no leader’s supply to take it up …. If you think Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were right – so are we because “Behro ko sunane ke liye dhamake ki zaroorat hoti hai”
Based on my interactions with a few in comments .. I felt some of my answers should be a part of mainstream article, mentioned below:
EDIT 1: Why were the rapists not hung immediately and let out to give interview?
My Answer: Well, our law gives a chance to every individual to prove the intentions behind crime … the very fact that these people had as heinous mentality as the nature of crime .. proves the fact that they were not having any remorse. Its not wrong to capture and expose this mentality via a documentary .. there are people who are blaming that documentary is leaving a bad impact on society but I beg to differ – It is just exposing the real mentality of the rapist … and many such anti social elements in society … 2nd set of people who are in favor of ban are shouting out in public that Indians and Indian culture is being targeted … they fail to to realize it is just a reminder to them that gender inequality which has “some point of time in history” entered our society silently has still not evaded in such a modern era (COMPARE JYOTI’s or Nirbhaya’s THINKING portrayed in documentary VERSUS RAPIST THINKING – then where is the question of targetting Indian culture? Are progressive women like Jyoti shown in bright light not a part of Indian culture? Do you also like that lawyer wish to say that there’s no place for women in Indian culture?)! and nobody is targeting Indian men (only targetting and exposing rapist mentality – do you wish to assume that all Indian men are portrayed as rapist – then how about Jyoti’s father and Jyoti’s friend). All we need more Raja Ram Mohan Roys, Swami Dayanands, Jyotirao Phules, etc. to work for women emancipation … and more women to open up their mind (GIVE RESPECT TO OTHER WOMEN … AS MUCH AS YOU THINK YOU DESERVE! DO NOT JUDGE THEM BY THEIR CLOTHES, OR MALE FRIENDS, OR PLACES THEY VISIT, OR TIME AT WHICH THEY COME BACK HOME). It is a progressive society after all! We need to change our mindset at some point of time!
EDIT 2: Politicizing the efforts behind documentary versus “rapes” in India – the cause behind the documentary:
My Answer: Im glad that at least some of us are able to see the real difference b/w politics and cause to be supported. Along with the rapists, I also get furious with these politicians (esp female) who are tagging this documentary as an attempt to “DEFAME TO INDIAN CULTURE” I mean … I wanna tell them to use their brains … at least a bit of it! and not act so dumb so that whole women folk gets ashamed .. I wish our voice gets opined … and it never happens again!
EDIT 3: ‘I am Not The Park Street Rape Victim. I am Suzette Jordan’
Also, an appeal to many unnecessarily indulging in mudslinging .. I am not saying there aren’t any rapes in US & UK … may be there are much more than India … But we are not competing to be the no.1! Are we? Then why this blame game …. and why should that bother me? I live in India … that’s why this bothers me!
So, I don’t want any illogical comments or beliefs from anyone… all I wish to see is the CHANGE in this mindset!
What is this India’s Daughter, Nirbhaya documentary?