INDIA’S DAUGHTER is a documentary film based on a true story retold by a well-known award-winning film maker, Leslee Udwin. The documentary, produced with prior approval of the home ministry and those interviewed, stands banned in India.
The government tried to strangle BBC from showing the movie, but failed. A court in Delhi has no jurisdiction over a television company broadcasting from Singapore and London. Now the only people who would not see the movie are Indians, for whom it was produced by Udwin ‘as a symbol of her gratitude’ to India’.
Apparently, Mr. Rajnath Singh, Home Minister, lied to the Rajya Sabha when he stated that permission was granted on the condition that it would be used for social purposes only, and not for commercial purpose.
No such condition was attached to the permission; only that permission should be taken from the interviewees. (see images alongside)
The documentary is indeed intended to serve a social purpose – to create awareness of the mind-set of criminals, and that of “educated” persons such as the lawyers who defended the rapists not for the purpose of defending their clients at any cost, but out of conviction. One of the lawyers, young Mr. AP Singh – not in court, put in a public statement – proudly stated that
“If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities (such as going out to a 6-8.30 PM movie with her boyfriend) and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”
That is the kind of call to honour killing you would expect in the fatwa of an extremist cleric in Afghanistan.
Apparently it is his opinion that the girl, who got raped and dismembered by six people inside a running bus was not punished seriously enough. She should have been burnt alive to death. We all have a right to know, when we ridicule stoning and hanging women in Muslim countries, there are men –educated
lawyers – who carry such conviction. <Pic. If my sister..>
The film (I saw the video version on BBC) a sensitive portrayal of the horrific end of a girl who had just completed her bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy in Prestigious Paramedic Institute in Dehradun and was to start her internship for the next six months in a Delhi hospital. There are no rhetoric, no preaching, and no accusations. All the characters presented – the parents, one of the convicts (who lie
s through his teeth and philosophises the crime and exposes the intend to murder), a young man who used to tutor the girl earlier and knew her well (not the boyfriend), the defending lawyers Mr. ML Sharma (who thinks women are not human, but flowers) and Mr. AP Singh who uses the occasion to let you know that he owns a farmhouse <pic>, former Chief Justice Leila Seth (Mother of world-famous author Vikram Seth) , and eminent lawyer, India’s former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam. Mr. Gopal Subramaniam and Justice Leila Srth were members of the Committee , whose recommendations became the Criminal Law Act 2013 passed by the parliament.
The documentary does not interview Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, who said “boys make mistake” and that “allegations of rape come up when friendship between boys and girls are broken.” He made it an election plank to “remove death penalty for rape”, which was a deliberate lie to mislead the public. There is no law in India that awards death penalty for rape. If rape leads to murder – that too in the rarest of rare cases – death penalty may be awarded by a judge. The incident in question was not just rape. The girl’s intestines were wrenched out through her vagina (I am sorry, but these facts need to be recounted), and it was wrapped in a paper and thrown out from the running bus. Mukesh Singh, who proudly who stoically describes the gory act in detail and philosophises over it, admits that the girl was thrown – thrown – out of the bus under the impression that she was dead. The only eye witness, Awindra, the boyfriend who was thrown out along with her stated that the driver attempted to run over the girl but he dragged her away. Mukesh corroborates this story when he says that he lost control over the bus after throwing them out and could not control it. He further confirm the intention to kill the girl and her friend when he said if the girl had not fought back, they would only have raped her and let them go. Raped girls (jinda lash) do not tell. It is the fight back that led to what happened. “Boy and girl are not equal”, says the convict.
The sentence of hanging till death pronounced by a lower court has been approved by the High Court; whether the Supreme Court will allow is a matter yet to be known. The rapist who was a few months short of eighteen years was referred to a juvenile court which awarded him the maximum punishment that could be given to one under eighteen – 3 years in a reformatory. Whether capital punishment is a deterrent or humane is to be decided by the parliament; not the Supreme Court. The question that faces the Supreme Court is whether the gang rape and murder figures in law among the “rarest of the rare”.
The girl died thirteen days after the incident after valiant attempts by the doctors in Safdarjung Hospital to stitch her together again. The remaining part of the intestine had turned gangrenous and had to be removed. An attempt to take her to the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore to transplant intestines Into her in her failed. Through the horrendous ordeal the girl fought on and often came to and gave evidence. (Probably that is what made the media name her Nirbhaya – fearless). She pleaded that she wanted to live. She asked that her tormenters be hanged. Her last word to her mother was, “I am sorry Mummy, I gave you so much trouble”. After those words, says Asha Singh, the graph on the monitor went flat.
There were huge month-long demonstrations and candle light vigil in honour of the Fearless. The government responded with the only response it knows: police beating up the demonstrators with latis (metal-tipped wooden rods), tear gas and threats to shoot. Women were manhandled. On such occasions, gender equality is honoured. The news of the incident, and reaction of the government machinery spread like wildfire across the world. I read about it in New York Times, watched it on BBC, CNN, News Asia, CCTV (China’s official television channel), and Al Jazeera. Taipei Times quoted Leslee Udwin thus quoted Leslee Udwin::
“It was an Arab spring for gender equality,” Udwin said. “What impelled me to leave my husband and two children for two years while I made the film in India was not so much the horror of the rape as the inspiring and extraordinary eruption on the streets. A cry of ‘enough is enough.’”
“Unprecedented numbers of ordinary men and women, day after day, faced a ferocious Indian government crackdown that included tear gas, baton charges and water cannons,” she said.
“They were protesting for my rights and the rights of all women. That gives me optimism. I cannot recall another country having done that in my lifetime,” she added.
While the common man in the city and the villages awakened to the new realities, India’s political bigwigs steadfastly remained as primitive as the lawyers I had quoted earlier. Apart from Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav many politicians in India of all party denominations gave amazing interpretations of rape. One said there are good rapes and bad rapes; another asserted that a girl can never be raped unless she consents. India’s Foreign Minister, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, once considered Prime Minister material said a raped woman is Jinda Lash meaning living corpse – meaning, whether she intended it or not, that there was no reason for a rape victim to live. Those speeches were, indeed, bound to defame India, but none took notice.
NDTV Mentions a number of films that attempted to commercialize the unfortunate incident by making feature movies. One tried to rope in Awindra, the boy who accompanied the girl who later got disgusted and parted company with the film makers. Indian movies who claim to be based on true incidents end up song-and-dance routines that actually defame the original characters. The movies were ignored by the sensitive public and went down without a trace, but while they were being shown in theatres, no moral police called for their ban, nor did the government take note.
Unfortunately, rape is a common occurrence along the length and breadth of our world. Men all over the world continue to see sex not as an expression of love, but as conquest. . Religious beliefs and tradition encourage that attitude. None the less in UN statistics, India does not appear as one among the top countries with a record of rapes per 10,000. Neither does Pakistan or Bangladesh, because women do not dare to ‘tell;, as rapist Mukesh noted, that they are raped.
Time Magazine tells us : “What happens in other countries? This may not be a typical example, but the rape of a teen girl by high school football players in the Steubenville, Ohio had many in the town sympathizing with the rapists and not the victim.”
However, letting the world know what the lady Finance Minister of the Country thinks about rape victims would have indeed defamed the Country.
Suddenly, India saw an avalanche of rape reports, where women came forward and said that they were raped and pointed at those who did it to them. Young women realized that they had nothing to lose by going public. Many said they it was their duty to tell.
The documentary gives us a number of insights into the lives of poor people who entertain ambitions and strive hard to achieve them. The love of a father who comes from the parts of India where girls are, if allowed to live, considered a burden and certainly not worthy of education. Jyoti – that is the girl real name and her parents so named her because they hoped their only child would bring one day brighten their dark, poverty-ridden lives. <Pic Mother on Jyoti>. Though a mere labourer in the airport, Badrinath Singh recollects his baby daughter’s ambition.
“Who has the highest job?” baby Jyoti asked him one day “The judge,” answered Badrinath. s “No, said little Jyoti. A Doctor is above all. I want to be a doctor.”
When Badrinath and his wife sold land to send their daughter to the prestigious paramedical institute in Dehradun, his friends and relations ridiculed them. Selling land – the most precious property of a poor man – for the very idea of educating a girl was preposterous.
While doing her studies, Jyoti moonlighted as an operator in a call centre. It is probable that she made friends with software engineer Awindra during that period. When at home, she cooked and washed to help her mother (This is one of the three scenes that were reconstructed – the scene of rape in a dimly lit street with only the headlights of the bus showing, Jyoti as an adolescent, and a grown up Jyoti helping her mother with washing).. When she completed her studies, Jyoti walked up proudly to her mother “ Your little girl is a doctor, Now everything will be fine”. A physiotherapist , although a paramedic, proudly carries the honorific of doctor.
On 16th December, 2012, in the evening Jyoti told her mother that she was going to watch a movie with her friend Awindra. Awindra wanted to watch an action movie; Jyoti was keen to see Life of Pi. They settled for Jyoti’s wish and watched the movie – a lone youngster
in a ship wreck fighting the other survivor, a ferocious tiger – from 6 to 8.30 in the evening. Then they took an ‘auto rickshaw’ to Munirka, a small township lined with shops along the outer ring road of New Delhi. They stopped to take a bus that was calling for passengers to “Palam Gaon”, suburban place en route which Jyoti’s house lay. How were they to know that it was not a regular bus, but a school bus taking its drunken driver Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, gymnasium assistant Vinay, Fruit seller Pawan, married-with-a-son-in-the-village cleaner Akshay and a Voldemort who must not be named and must not be seen because he was a few months short of eighteen years, never mind that he took turn after Ram Singh to rape the girl.
Convict Mukesh was interviewed in jail by Dibang, a renowned journalist who has many awards and journalistic positions to his credit – he acted in an Italian film; and has been on the panel of several television debates and is rated as a high-calibre TV journalist. Dibang allowed his target his full say, and Mukesh the convict makes full use of it. ‘ The idea is to go into the mind of the rapist.’
“Whatever Mukesh Singh is saying, a lot of people say that in their normal conversations. I think that has alarmed them because they probably think that it is their voice in there!’
No truer words were spoken; they explain why there was a clamour for banning the film.
The convict starts by repeating a popular Indian dictum – you cannot clap with one hand. The girl is to blame for rape. (A view, as Dibang points out, shared by many including important decision-making personages in India).
When they boarded the bus, Ram Singh (Mukesh’s brother, whom he describes as a drunkard, trouble maker and ferocious character) only asked the boy why the two were travelling at that part of the night (at 8.30 or 9 PM, in Munirka on Delhi’s Outer Ring Road). Mukesh tells us that Ram Singh’s intention was to show them that it was wrong. However, they boy – Awindra -, retorted that it was none of his business and slapped Ram Singh. That is when they decided to rape the girl, he says. They beat up the boy who went under a seat, took the girl at the back of the bus. Mukesh implies all through that he was not among those who raped, that he was driving the bus. Their only intention in raping the girl was to ‘teach them a lesson’ (Sabak sikhana) so that they won’t travel together again at night. He doesn’t forget to tell Dibang that the six were on their way to GB road to “have fun” because they had the money.
The lie that Awindra started a fight by slapping Ram Singh lacks credibility. The girl did fight back, biting her tormenters who bit her all over her face and body. Perhaps earlier watching teenaged Pi who fought a ferocious tiger in the middle of the heaving ocean inspired her courage.<Pic Tiger>
I am sorry, but cannot omit to mention this gruesome part – Mukesh tells us that “someone put his hand inside and pulled out a long thing and concludes – “It was her intestine”. When the gory act was over, the convict tells Dibang : Ram Singh said : “She is dead. Throw them out”. So the two were thrown out as dead. “We thought they would not have told anybody that she was raped. That is why we let them live”, explained Mukesh. A Jinda Lash, dead corpse, never speaks.
The story spread like wild fire all over the world – I heard the details and the demonstrations that followed and watched the videos on foreign televisions. Many of them took special care to show videos of policemen beating up demonstrating women, teargasing others. When it was announced that Ram Singh hanged himself in jail, a South East Asian channel discussed police brutality in India .It is interesting to note that the magistrate who took the dying victim’s statement complained that the police officer interfered and interjected, so a second statement had to be recorded.
Mr. ML Sharma, one of the lawyers for defence said that “Our culture is the best culture. In our culture a girl is a flower, “a pleasant (‘plee-cent’) performance”. Not an independent human being who deserves freedom of movement).
To Sharma a bus plying on the road, “With YADAV TRAVELS boldly written on its real panel and bearing a number plate, announcing its next destination and giving out tickets, is a gutter. The dogs who “spoil the flower” are to be excused; it is the flower that has been rightly spoilt” Perhaps such arguments by the defence lawyers hastened the decision of the judge to hasten his sentence to send them to the gallows.
Justice Markandaya Kadju, a former judge of the Supreme Court, who does not mind controversies when speaking his mind, said I oppose the ban on the film. The object of showing the convict’s interview was to condemn the feudal mentality against women still widely prevalent in India. If such a ban is accepted, then all films and stories showing social evils can be banned. This violates freedom of speech and democracy”.
India has sensible higher courts even if some of the lower ones can be swayed by public opinion and government threat of displeasure and transfers. Now that the documentary has been banned, the whole world will look for it, buy CDs, watch in theatres and discuss the primitive nature of Indian mind-set. The documentary, which is a painstaking analysis of one of the many gruesome rapes that take place all over the world, in no way defames India. By banning the documentary, Mr. Rajnath Singh and his kind defamed India.
Chief Justice Leila Seth, for whom I have the greatest regard, displays amazing naiveté when she tells the interviewer that education is the solution. The two lawyers, AP Singh and ML Sharma are educated – not in Madrasas, but in law colleges. Mr. Mulayam Singh and his ilk who misleads his folk that the Indian law demands capital punishment for rape (he used it as an election plank ) and then pronounces that ‘boys will be boys and will rape” is a graduate. Mrs. Sushma Swaraj who said that a rape victim is nothing but a living corpse is a graduate with a record of high positions in the party and government from the age of 25.. It was the poor and poorly educated parents of the Jyoti who showed breadth of vision and maturity of mind. They did not regret Jyoti having a male friend; they ask why a girl is not equal to a boy.
It is more than a year since the appeal against death sentence went to the Supreme Court. May be the painfully anxious days that the rapists being spent in their prison is some form of justice.
Only the Juvenile, now 20, whose name, cannot be mentioned, is laughing in his cloth mask. He would be free by December this year (2015) and nobody but his close relatives would know who he was. At least, that’s what he might hope.
Hanging the guilty foursome will end up in tragedies for their innocent families. Akshay is married and has a toddler son. His wife, who does not believe that her husband could be a rapist and a murderer threatens to strangle the child. With Akshay gone, says the bewildered woman, there will be nobody to look after her and the child. The rapist’s parents sadly nod agreement.
Primitive mind-set, combined with male aggression, leads to a trail of human tragedies. Banning an attempt to expose such disruptive attitudes is as good as giving a license to rape and murder.
Shame to you, my Government, for banning a truthful and sensitive narration of an incident which could have happened anywhere in the world and of which the whole word is any way aware. It is the ban that defames the Country and its much wonted constitutional guarantee of Freedom of Expression. Shame to the justice system that upheld the defamation.