The Delhi High Court today stayed the telecast and transmission of the BBC documentary on the December 16 gang rape. The documentary shot by British film maker Leslee Udwin, who herself is a rape survior, comprises of an interview of one of the convicts, Mukesh Singh. Two lawyers who defended the men convicted of Nirbhaya's rape and murder have also been interviewed.
A clip from the documentary was released on the internet and the repercussions have been rather predictable.
People took immense offence. Not because the rape happened, not because the convict and the lawyers cried foul about the victim, not because it revealed the typical psyche of our conventional and patriarchal society. But rather, because the documentary was made. The Indian Parliament believes that a documentary such as this should not be released because of violation of permission conditions. Needless to say, it has been banned.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh summoned Director-General of Tihar Jail, where the documentary was shot.The Home Minister said an investigation has been ordered on how the permission was granted to interview Mukesh Singh in July 2013 and also to fix the responsibility.
The FIR lodged in the matter says that Udwin has interviewed Mukesh Singh, one of the convicts of Nirbhaya gang rape case in which he had made offensive and derogatory remarks against women, creating an atmosphere of fear and tension with the possibility of public outcry and law and order situation.
The BBC Four Storyville was supposed to broadcast the full documentary on March 8, Women's Day. An excerpt from the BBC's introductory article:
Lawyer AP Singh said: “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities 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.” And he confirms to Udwin in the documentary that is stance remains the same: “This is my stand. I still today stand on that reply.”
Another defence lawyer who acted in the case, ML Sharma, says: “In our society, we never allow our girls to come out from the house after
6:30 or 7:30 or 8:30 in the evening with any unknown person.”
“You are talking about man and woman as friends. Sorry, that doesn't have any place in our society. We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman.”
The BBC has now rescheduled the telecast to March 4, 8:30 GMT.
Anna M Vetticad defends the 'balanced' documentary in her piece published in Scroll:
The purpose of India’s Daughter would be served if Singh’s interview compels us to examine our collective conscience for two reasons: first, to understand where our society has gone so wrong that a man such as this one emerged from our midst; and second, for the everydayness of Singh’s views.
The truth is that his beliefs about rape victims mirror the beliefs expressed by numerous ordinary men and women across India – and in varying degrees in the rest of the world; of politicians and other prominent figures (from spiritual guru Asaram Bapu, to Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar) who have derided rape victims in various ways.
Twitterati reacted strongly against the banning of the video.
#NirbhayaInsulted by trolls squeaking in protest at a documentary that holds a mirror to them—even as they applaud the rapists' lawyers.— Prasanto K Roy (@prasanto) March 4, 2015
Certain BJP Leaders hv made more derogatory comments than in the documentary. Why Home Minister don't ban them? #NirbhayaInsulted— Vinod Mehta (@DrunkVinodMehta) March 4, 2015
Cong protests today knowng fully well tht Shinde gve the permssion 2 yrs ago.Their lies n depravity truly knows no bounds. #NirbhayaInsulted— Vande Mataram (@UnSubtleDesi) March 4, 2015
#NirbhayaInsulted Govt stopping the Nirbhaya Rapist Interview? No problem. Just piss off BJP supporters and you will get the same statements— Arun Nambiar (@aruns_nambiar) March 4, 2015
Haven't seen the documentary, but criticizing it. Why? #NirbhayaInsulted— Shubham Gupta/Purwar (@2704shubham) March 4, 2015
#NirbhayaInsulted You Rape becoz U think U can and then get away with it.. I Must somehow put it into your Head that NO YOU CANNOT.. Period!— Prakash Jha (@prakashjha27) March 4, 2015
#NirbhayaInsulted .Yes,we are a Very Sick society..But tell me, can listening to the absurd carnal reasoning of a Rapist be any cure for it?— Prakash Jha (@prakashjha27) March 4, 2015
#NirbhayaInsulted when interview of incarcerated rapist is aired. Not when rapes continue unabated? Our brains deserve only BigBoss.— Akash Banerjee (@akashbanerjee) March 4, 2015
While another section supported the government's decision to ban the documentary screening as #Nirbhayainsulted became a trending topic on Twitter.
To take on a rapist, would you air his interview? Let him justify what he did? #NirbhayaInsulted— Deepti Sachdeva (@DeeptiSachdeva_) March 3, 2015
If u were brutally raped.. &UR CONVICTED rapist spoke on TV about how u should have laid back ¬ fought How wld u feel? #NirbhayaInsulted— Pooja Bedi (@poojabeditweets) March 3, 2015
It can happen only in India- A rapist getting Media coverage, Interviews & Social media coverage too. Disgusting! #NirbhayaInsulted— Sadhavi Khosla Dalal (@sadhavi) March 3, 2015
On the brighter side, as the Parliament reverberated with the documentary screening arguments, many opposed the Government's move openly today, leading to a heated debate in both Houses of Parliament. Rajya Sabha members Javed Akhtar and Jaya Bachchan stood strongly against the banning.
Akhtar spoke against the double standards of politicians who talk of such cases in the House, but refuse to expose the rapist's mindset to the larger public.
While Bachchan blamed both UPA government and NDA regime for inaction.
Lok Sabha Member and popular actress Kirron Kher brought out the irony of the system trying to introduce schemes like 'Beti Bachao' while narrow minded gender discrimination continues at the grassroot levels.
Where 'To Ban Or Not To Ban' Ain't The Question, Let The Country Awake.