Monday, October 19, 2020
Home Media India's Daughter - the takeaways and the concerns

India’s Daughter – the takeaways and the concerns

Like many, I watched the BBC 4 documentary ‘India’s Daughter.’ In this day and age, attempting to keep content out of public purview is self defeating and even foolish. While there may be valid legal objections to the film maker’s methods, it might be prudent for the Indian government to de-escalate the eminently avoidable row over a “ban,” which has taken away from the fundamental issues which surround the matter.

My first reaction to the documentary, which was marketed loosely along the lines of a rapist ‘speaking for the first time on TV’ was ‘should a convicted rapist be given a megaphone on national television?’ On watching the film, my objection ceded way to a sense of ‘it seems to have served a greater cause.’ NDTV and the film maker, Leslee Udwin may have erred in their marketing approach. I will concede that we live in a world of compromises, and television studios too confront business and commercial compulsions every day. But, they may have crossed a line with their attention-grabbing gimmick, which served to fuel pre-conceived distrust about their intent. There was really no need (even from a crass business-like promotional standpoint) to promote a rapist when the message clearly is about ‘India’s daughter.’

Untitled

Speaking of which, the film seems to have been titled rather unfortunately. Rape is a global problem. There is plenty of data and anecdotal evidence that suggests that the problem of rape, by no means, is isolated to India or other developing countries. By titling it, ‘India’s Daughter,’ (which I’m sure was done with the best of intentions) the filmmaker has (perhaps unwittingly) fueled a stereotype around India and rape. Make no mistake. India does undeniably have a serious problem with containing crimes against women. So does the rest of the world. Creating the perception that India somehow is more troubled than other countries in this matter has taken away from the core issues of the problem. It perpetuates the commonly held impression of a condescending Westerner with a sense of misplaced ‘duty’ trying to right the wrongs of a former colony. Leslee Udwin may, for all we know, be an Indophile and she may have the best interests at heart for India. But she hasn’t served her cause well with the theatrics and messaging.

Reactions to the video and the consequent ban have been global. Nicholas Kristoff, an influential New York Times columnist, tweeted expressing hope that the Indian government will spend more time addressing the rape problem than on enforcing the ban. Google took down the video one day after it surfaced on Youtube. Twitter has been abuzz with combative postures. I don’t watch Indian or any other television for news any more. So I can’t comment meaningfully on their coverage. But I did watch Sonia Singh’s interview of a motley crew, which included Ms Udwin, none of whom was a qualified social scientist with credentials to add to a topic with as much gravitas as this.

A mainstream columnist portrayed the negativity towards the video as largely (99.9%, no less!) male chauvinistic and from men ‘unwilling to look in the mirror.’ The same person went on describe the film as ‘crap’ and ‘patronizing.’ Such sweeping statements only helped accelerate the discourse off topic into a tug of war between feminists and ‘monstrous men,’ between India and the West, and added no perceptible value to discussion.

In parallel, there was commentary about ‘a western conspiracy to defame India,’ a theory onto which the government of India has unfortunately latched. Perhaps, we should be grateful to the West for their gracious efforts in solving India’s rape problem, even as they continue to be unmindful of their serious own deficiencies in this area. Case in point: A girl from Steubenville, Ohio was raped by a gang of athletes around the same time the horrific event in Delhi in 2012. And yet it never received the mainstream media’s attention that it deserved.

The US continues to lead the world in crimes against women. Rapes on US campuses have reached epidemic proportions. A third of all college women are sexually assaulted on campus every year. The rest of the Western hemisphere does not fare significantly better. And yet, India continues to be treated as the only problem child by the West. However, I’m grateful for that attention because India can use all the help it can get, on this very serious matter. I prefer to take the commentary in a spirit of constructive problem solving, even if some of it may be questionable in intent.

Are all Indian men misogynists and potential rapists? Do they need a mirror held up to them by a convicted, unrepentant rapist? Is this a conspiracy to defame India? Or, is it merely an attempt to drive higher ratings, win awards and accrue personal fame and fortune? Are these the right questions to expend valuable time on? Do these questions make for valuable discourse? Answers to a few of the questions are self-evident. In other cases, they are worthless. Answers are worthless if the questions are worthless.

What did I take away from the documentary? Does it serve the ‘purpose of overall good,’ all things considered? I believe it did. Clearly, this is a matter of opinion. The film moved me. Jyoti Singh’s words haunt me. “There is no one above a doctor.” Here was a young woman, so filled with promise and who had traveled such a great distance in the pursuit of her dreams, who was snuffed out mercilessly even as she stood at the gates to her heaven. I do not know if we can ever forgive ourselves. We certainly cannot forget. This is a scar that will never heal. Jyoti Singh is not alone. Girls and women before her have suffered enormous pain.

Girls and women after her continue to do so. We have all suffered enormous pain and heartbreak. While we feel righteous anger and despair, we cannot afford to let negativity drag us into a spiral of self-flagellation and self-destruction. We cannot afford to turn human tragedies into political theater and a circus orchestrated by self-serving propagandists. We must listen to our inner voices. We must put aside our misgivings, biases and fears. We must not shoot messengers who give us bad news. We must learn that, sometimes, the best of messages can come to us from those with even the most dubious of intentions.. We must learn to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the genuine problem solvers from charlatans. We must amplify the voices of those who genuinely care. We owe Jyoti Singh and all women decency in our discourse.

Can rape ever be “fixed”? Even a country with enormous resources such as the United States has failed spectacularly so far. Does India even have a prayer? Are women doomed and condemned to vagaries of fortune? The picture is a troubling one; one that should keep us awake at night. It is one that cannot be solved without the coming together of minds. I applaud LesleeUdwin for making the film. It has served the purpose of stirring an important debate. I hope the government will allow every one to see it. I hope it will make us all think about the world in which we find ourselves.

The film, to me, provided a subtle and critical insight. There is a battle that is going on, between the progressive and regressive parts of India. This is not a battle between men and women. It’s not a rich versus poor battle. It’s not really a class war. It’s a war between the challenger and the incumbent in India. Six men decided to punish a young woman on a fateful night because she didn’t conform to their view of India. She was punished for being progressive. She was punished for being a woman. She was punished for having a mind of her own. As we ponder solutions, it is worth keeping this in mind. We have to note that there are those among us, who will rape and murder in order to enforce their belief system; that women are more often than not at the receiving end of such retrograde, primal and punitive instincts. We must take our considered positions on this and act in concert to further a greater cause. There can be no greater cause than this. We must force our government to appreciatethe nuances and frame the debate appropriately, for it plays a critical role in how we move forward.

We must urgently put aside our personal affiliations and prejudices and unite to answer the most pressing question of our times: What are we going to do to make our women valued, respected and influential members of our families, societies and countries? No nation deserves greatness if it cannot answer this. And we the people certainly will not deserve forgiveness if we fail to answer this for ourselves.

@waatho

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Related Articles

Trending now

Rajdeep Sardesai and India Today secure a gag order against social media user who had said they took 8 crores for Rhea interview

Issuing an order on India Today petition, the Delhi HC has ordered Twitter to suspend the man named Anurag Srivastava, and Google to remove the content from search results.

Jinnah’s ideology: Prof Brij Narain, a strong supporter of Pakistan’s creation, was hacked to death by an Islamist mob in Lahore in 1947

Prof Brij Narain, an enthusiastic exponent of Pakistan, was hacked to death in broad daylight by a Muslim mob even as he kept pleading them to stop ransacking his house in Lahore in the wake of partition .

India-China standoff: Indian army captures PLA soldier, probing espionage angle

The army stated that the PLA personnel will be handed over to the Chinese officials at Chushul-Moldo meeting point, following the completion of formalities.

If Congress comes back to power, it will be impossible to utter a word against them

This time, they will have a third and most potent weapon: technology and dominance in the digital space.

‘Uddhav Thackeray has formed a special team to bring down Republic TV, Arnab has to be locked up’: Explosive sting reveals MVA govt plot

"The strategy is to lock him (Arnab Goswami) behind bars. Nobody can save his channel from being banned," the Congress leader said.

Recently Popular

After Chinese phones blocking weather data for Arunachal and Ladakh, now Twitter shows Leh as part of China

Security analyst Nitin A Gokhale found that Twitter has labelled Leh in Ladakh as part of People's Republic of China (PRC)

In 2012 ‘out of town’ Salman Khan partied with Parambir Singh in Mumbai on day Bandra cops could not serve him Court summons for...

As reported by Mid-Day in 2012, Salman Khan and Parambir Singh were both found attending a Christmas party hosted by Sunny Dewan and his wife Anu Dewan in Mumbai. This when the Bandra cops claimed Khan was not in town.

During 26/11 Mumbai attack, Param Bir Singh refused to be on ground and take on terrorists, then Mumbai CP Hasan Gafoor had said

Hasan Gafoor, who was the Mumbai Commissioner of Police during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, had accused senior police officials, including Param Bir Singh of not taking on the terrorists.

Pro-congress journalists and trolls target Amitabh Bachchan’s son-in-law Nikhil Nanda when another Nikhil Nanda criticised Rahul Gandhi

Nikhil Nanda, the MD of JHS Svendgaard Laboratories Limited, had exposed Rahul Gandhi for criticising India's handling of COVID-19 crisis

Shashi Tharoor wears Mani Shankar Aiyar’s hat, denigrates India and praises Pakistan at Lahore Literature Festival, claims Modi govt targeting Muslims

Shashi Tharoor denigrated India and praised Pakistan during a discussion at the Lahore Literature Festival.

Odisha lawyer Mehendi Reza gives rape threats to Kangana Ranaut on Navratri post, claims Facebook ID was ‘hacked’

Actress Kangana Ranaut receives rape threat on her post wishing people for Navratri.
- Advertisement -

Days after an Islamist brutally beheaded a teacher, France Govt prepares to expel 231 religious extremists from the country

France is planning to come down hard on religious extremists after an Islamic youth beheaded a teacher recently

Congress, media target Varun Gandhi for unwillingness to speak to a stranger late at night: Here is who the man was and why he...

The Congress party has decided to go after BJP MP Varun Gandhi after a leaked version of his conversation found its way to the media.

India formally invites Australia to join the 2020 Malabar trilateral naval exercise, Australia confirms full participation: Read details

It will be the first time all members of the regional grouping known as the Quad will participate in the Malabar naval exercise

Rajasthan: Two minor girls gang-raped, police shift victims to the hospital in an auto-rickshaw instead of ambulance

Two minors gang-raped by six in Rajasthan. Police conducting raids at various locations in search of accused.

Dance moves by Dr Arup in Silchar, Assam wins Internet, inspires Hrithik Roshan

The Assam doctor's dance video has gone viral on social media, gaining thousands of likes and comments.

Family of girl murdered in terror attack condemns BBC for providing platform to terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, painting her as a victim: Read details

Ahlam Tamimi was convicted and sentenced for 16 years her role in a pizza parlour bombing in Jerusalem in 2001 before her imprisonment was cut short in a prisoner-exchange deal with Hamas

Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami to sue Param Bir Singh for Rs 200 crore after Maha Govt’s admission in Mumbai High court

Maha Govt and Mumbai police distances itself from the allegations meted out at Republic TV by PC Param Bir Singh

Frustrated with “rants” of Shashi Tharoor, MP Nishikant Dubey requests Lok Sabha speaker to put him in a committee where there is no Tharoor

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor yesterday ranted against Republic TV and Times Now, issuing 'moral sermons' to the corporates who financed the aforementioned news channels

Rajdeep Sardesai and India Today secure a gag order against social media user who had said they took 8 crores for Rhea interview

Issuing an order on India Today petition, the Delhi HC has ordered Twitter to suspend the man named Anurag Srivastava, and Google to remove the content from search results.

Connect with us

245,563FansLike
464,815FollowersFollow
18,700SubscribersSubscribe