Don’t ban “India’s Daughter” for its content, but do question it

“India’s Daughter”, the documentary on the girl we now know as Nirbhaya, has created a lot of controversy. Given what was out in the public domain about the documentary, we gave our view that based on those facts, it may not be advisable to ban it, but it may also be prudent not to air it on TV. There are numerous legal tangles that the documentary is facing, which we highlighted here.

The Documentary maker had declared on NDTV’s show that she believed “Most people in the society” think like the rapist. My objection was to this defamatory, unsubstantiated stereotyping, which I feared the documentary might propagate. And then I saw the damned video.

Firstly, let me come to how NDTV promoted this documentary:

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B_I_VTfVEAAnVZa“World Premiere”. “The Face of Evil, The Rapist speaks on Camera”. This is what NDTV stated in its posters and advertisements. Fact? in an hour-long documentary, the Rapist’s interview is shown only for 10 minutes odd! Quite a few people were worried that the Documentary is a platform for the Rapist, but it actually covers the entire incident, right from the victim’s background, the incident, the protests, the defence lawyers, the government reaction and the court’s verdict. What was essentially an attempt to chronicle this entire episode, was reduced to “RAPIST SPEAKS ON CAMERA” by NDTV. Why? TRPs STUPID!

My major beef (pun intended) with this documentary was that it might echo the film-maker’s views that most Indian men agree with the justifications place by the Rapist. The justifications and his views, were reported here by BBC. Again an attempt was made to portray that this documentary was focussed on the rapist’s views and how Indian males are in sync with him. As a male, I was outraged at this. Thankfully, I didn’t find any major stereotyping of Indian men as a whole in the documentary.

But I do have some problems with it. Firstly, I felt, Nirbhaya’s parents are being used. Their emotions are being used to make this documentary popular. Some would validly argue that this is needed to wake up the conscience of the viewers. But I am not in favour of exploitation of human misery. There was no need to make her mother say things which would make her cry on air. This is my personal opinion though, and certainly no cause to ban the documentary.

Secondly, the video gives an insight into the background of the rapists. How they are from poor families, how they have been mistreated by luck and society. “This boy had suffered endless misery in life, he was a child in need of care and protection, and was a typical profile of a child, who had to be like this in a way“, these are the words of Mr Amod Kant, founder of the NGO Prayas, for the Juvenile Rapist. Is this some sort of twisted justification? When this is heard by millions of juveniles who are also facing “endless misery”, will it have a negative impact in their minds? Will it give them a “victim mentality”? This point may very well be needed to understand the psyche of Rapists, but beam it out to millions of uninformed viewers? I am not sure.

We are also shown the abject poverty in which the families of the Rapists are living, as if to re-inforce the above point. Then we also see the wife of one of the Rapists. She believes her husband is innocent, and also asks what will happen to her if he is killed. We are shown the 2 year old child of the rapist too. The wife then says if her husband is hanged, she will kill herself and her child. I don’t know what the intention behind this was but it could evoke sympathy in the minds of some, and may make some of the soft-hearted feel the Rapists deserve another chance.

In another part of the documentary, the Rapist interviewed, repeatedly claims he is innocent. He firmly asserts that he was at the steering for the entire incident and had no role to play in the actual rape. There is no attempt in the video to counter this, since even the courts found strong DNA evidence against him. It is also alleged that there was attempt to mow down Nirbhaya after the incident, and if indeed he was the driver, he may be responsible for this too. By not highlighting this, I wonder if an uninformed viewer might get the impression that this poor boy, from weaker section of the society, who was only driving the bus (maybe under coercion) has been unjustly victimized.

This feeling maybe compounded by the one of the Defence lawyer’s statements where he alleges that cases of Rape, Robbery, Murder are pending against more than 250 MPs, but none of these cases are fast-tracked. Soon the rapist also sings a similar tune of what-aboutism by raising other gruesome rapes and asking “why me?”. While the point of this might have been to show the apathy towards sexual crimes around us, Can this again be a “morale booster” to those suffering “endless misery” that they are being unjustly victimized?

There is also a repeated attempt to criticize the death penalty. Amod Kant says “we are not that kind of country” which believes in Death Penalty and similar punishments. The Rapist’s wife also makes similar noises. The Rapist himself gives a logic that if indeed they are hanged, in future rapists will be motivated to kill their victims to silence them.

Of course there is a lot of good too in the documentary. It shows the entire incident, it generally doesn’t attempt to stereotype Indian men, It shows the twisted depraved statements of the Rapist and the Lawyers, shows the unprecedented protests, the rather swift (by Indian standards) judicial process.

To conclude, It is unfortunate how the Indian Media promoted the documentary, because it certainly caused a bit of misplaced outrage in quite a few, me included. At the same time there will be some who will still not like the documentary because it can be very chilling and disturbing at times.

And then there are the concerns which I have raised above, how it unintentionally might embolden potential rapists rather than equipping the society with ways of combating this menace. Does it deserve a Ban? Ideally no, But I also don’t know if it’s suitable for viewing on TV by anybody and everybody. This is of course provided it fulfils all the Legal conditions. Until then, it shouldn’t be aired, nobody is above the law, not rapists, not documentary makers.

co-founder, OpIndia.com

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