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Chilling & Unwatchable:
Film Documentary “India’s Daughter” Airs In Seven Countries In The West,
But Banned In India

JASPER REES, TARA CONLAN, MASEEH RAHMAN & YVONNE ROBERTS

 

 

 

 

 

India’s Daughter -- the documentary film screened on BBC TV last night -- verged on the unwatchable.

It told of the gang rape – on a bus by five men and one juvenile in December 2012 – of Jyoti Singh Pandey, a Delhi medical student who died in hospital of her wounds.

The unspeakable details of her ritual humiliation belong in another century, and yet they tell of a deeply ingrained culture of female repression in India.

A woman is raped in India every 20 minutes.

For its eye-watering brutality, and also for its resonant symbolism, this was the case to ignite furious demonstrations, which in turn were violently suppressed by riot police.

Peering behind the headlines and the hysteria, Leslee Udwin’s overpowering documentary featured interviews with a wide range of people connected to the case: not only Jyoti’s dignified parents, but also one of the rapists, another rapist’s young wife and the parents of two more of the culprits.

All of them were living with the gruelling consequences of poverty, lack of education and a culture which privileges boys and turns a blind eye to the abortion of female foetuses.

Jyoti’s life was an attempt to break this cycle. Memories of those close to her suggested a shining embodiment of new aspirational India.

But female lawyers, politicians and academics queued up in the film to explain that India doesn’t know how to cope with a young generation of emancipated women, a position hideously corroborated by the defendants’ lawyers.

“In our society,” said one, “we never allow a girl to come out of the house after 6.30 with any unknown person.”

This was much the mildest of his endorsements on the male-oriented status quo.

The interview with Mukesh Singh, who drove the bus and joined in the rape, was the most marrow-chilling of all.

[Please note: Despite the last name ‘Singh’ of both the victim and the rapist, neither is Sikh,]

He explained that any woman who resists rape, as his victim did, is begging to be murdered, and even argued that the death penalty for rape could only be bad news for victims.

“Now when they rape they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Especially the criminal types.”

He had just enough humanity to flinch as the list of Jyoti’s injuries – from bite marks to the removal of her intestines – was read out to him.

While the UK broadcast was brought forward from International Woman’s Day on March 8 to last night, earlier this week the Indian government secured an injunction banning the broadcast of the documentary.

Make of that what you will.

*   *   *   *   *

The BBC brought forward the transmission of the hard-hitting documentary about the gang rape of a young woman in Delhi following the decision by Indian authorities to ban the film.

India’s Daughter” had been scheduled for Sunday, International Women’s Day, but it aired on Wednesday night (March 4, 2015) on BBC4.

Documentary-maker Leslee Udwin, meanwhile, was reported by India’s NDTV channel to have decided to fly out of India due to fears she could be arrested.

The television channel also broadcast what it said was Udwin’s last interview before she left India.

“I’m very frightened what’s going to happen next -- I predict the whole world will point fingers at India now,” Udwin said. “It’s a tragedy -- you’re shooting yourself in the foot.”

The BBC said it made the decision to bring forward the airing of “India’s Daughter” following international interest in the programme about the brutal rape in December 2012 of 23-year-old physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh.

BBC4 editor Cassian Harrison said the decision to move the “powerful and compelling” programme was made, “due to the international interest” in it.

“From our perspective, given the strong public interest we feel it’s important it gets out”, said Harrison, adding: “it is a shame that the authorities in India don’t want it to be shown.”

The BBC has not received any correspondence from the Indian government but said it would be unlikely to be able to ban it in the UK due to it being under a different jurisdiction.

The move was made after Indian authorities banned the domestic broadcast of the film and said they were also trying to prevent it from being shown worldwide.

India’s parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu declared: “We can ban the film in India. But this is an international conspiracy to defame India. We will see how the film can be stopped abroad too.”

Udwin appealed to Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, to try and help get the ban overturned and “deal with this unceremonious silencing of the film”.

India’s Daughter” includes interviews with one of the men convicted of the crime, who is now in prison in Delhi and waiting for the supreme court to hear his appeal against the death sentence.

In it, Mukesh Singh suggests his victim would not have been killed if she had not fought back against her attackers and appears to blame her for not behaving like “a decent girl”.

He says: “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy.”

Although it has been banned in India, “India’s Daughter” is due to be aired by broadcasters in several countries including Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Canada, as well as on BBC4.

*   *   *   *   *

Jyoti, 23, had cause to celebrate. It was no ordinary Sunday.

“Happiness was just a few steps away,” says her father, Badri Singh, a labourer. He and his wife, Asha, originally from Uttar Pradesh, had sold their family land, to provide schooling not just for their two sons but also Jyoti.

“Papa,” Jyoti had instructed her father, “whatever money you’ve saved for my wedding, use it for my education.”

Badri’s brothers wondered why he was wasting money on a girl.

On this Sunday, 16 December 2012, Jyoti, a name that means light and happiness, had just completed her medical exams to become a doctor. Speaking excellent English, she spent nights working in a call centre from 8 pm until 4 am, slept for three hours, then studied. Her ambition was to build and run a hospital in her family’s village. “A girl can do anything,” she would say.

But that evening, in Delhi, she decided to go to the cinema to see “The Life of Pi” with a male friend. At 8.30 pm, on the way home, the pair got into an off-duty charter bus.

India’s Daughter“, a powerful, brave and heart-wrenching documentary made by Leslee Udwin, provokes grief and anger but also pity for the ignorance. It charts what then happened on that moving bus as Jyoti was brutally raped by five men and a 17-year-old (“the juvenile”), eviscerated, then thrown on to the street.

It shows how for the next 30 days across India, women and men demonstrated on the streets of the country’s cities, calling for the equality recognised in India’s constitution but never delivered, marking what a former solicitor general, Gopal Subramaniam, calls in the film “a momentous expression of hope for society”.

“It was an Arab spring for gender equality,” Udwin says. “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 government crackdown that included teargas, baton charges and water cannon. They were protesting for my rights and the rights of all women. That gives me optimism. I can’t recall another country having done that in my lifetime.”

On Monday, 9 March, Hollywood actresses Freida Pinto and Meryl Streep will attend a screening in New York, launching a worldwide “India’s Daughter” campaign against gender inequality and sexual violence against women and girls. It begins by 20 million pupils viewing the film and taking part in workshops in Maharashtra, a state that includes Mumbai.

Each country has its own appalling bloody tally. India has a population of 1.2 billion. A rape occurs every 20 minutes. In England and Wales, 85,000 women are raped every year. In Denmark one in five women has experienced a sexual assault. Sexual assault, rape, acid attacks, murder, domestic violence, the termination of female foetuses, sex trafficking and female genital mutilation are all manifestations of male power.

What is writ very large in “India’s Daughter“, but camouflaged in other countries where equality is more strongly embedded in law, is the low value placed on females and the determination of some men, educated as well as the impoverished, to keep women padlocked to the past.

“We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman,” says one man in Udwin’s film. What is shocking is that he is ML Sharma, defence lawyer for the men convicted of Jyoti’s rape and murder.

A second defence lawyer, AP Singh, says if his daughter or sister “engaged in pre-marital activities … in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight”.

“I began this film with a narrow focus,” Israeli-born Udwin, 57, says. “‘Why do men rape?’ I discovered that the disease is a lack of respect for gender. It’s not just about a few rotten apples, it’s the barrel itself that is rotten.”

Udwin was an actress before becoming an award-winning producer. Her work includes “Who Bombed Birmingham?” about the miscarriage of justice that imprisoned the Birmingham Six, and “East is East“.

For “India’s Daughter” she spent 30 hours interviewing rapists including Gaurav, a 34-year-old man serving 10 years for raping a five-year-old.

“He told me in minute detail what he had done. How he had taken off her knickers. How her eyes were wide with fear. How he had done it front and back. I asked him how tall she was. He stood up and put his hand above his knee. I asked him, ‘How could you do something so terrible that would ruin a child’s life?’

He said, ‘She was a beggar girl, her life was of no value.’”

Udwin found the girl, Neeta, now aged 10, and plans to make a film about her family’s resilience and resistance.

“She is doing OK. Her mother is a beggar and has put Neeta and two other children through school.”

Central to “India’s Daughter” is an interview in Tahir jail, Delhi, with Mukesh Singh, driver of the bus. His brother, Ram, was found hanging in his cell months after the trial. The two lived in a Delhi slum.

Also involved was Pawan Gupta, a fruit seller; Vinay Sharma, a gym assistant; unemployed Akshay Thakur; and “the juvenile”, living on the streets since he was 11.

They had all been drinking before going out where “wrong things are done”.

Mukesh Singh says: “You can’t clap with one hand – it takes two hands. A decent girl won’t roam around at night. A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy … about 20% of girls are good.”

Jyoti fought back.

Mukesh says: “She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they would have dropped her off after ‘doing her’ and only hit the boy.

“The 15 or 20 minutes of the incident, I was driving the bus. The girl was screaming, ‘Help me, help me.’ The juvenile put his hand in her and pulled out something. It was her intestines …We dragged her to the front of the bus and threw her out.”

Udwin, in Hindi, reads a list of Jyoti’s injuries to Mukesh, caused by an iron bar and multiple rapes. They include bite marks and massive internal injuries. He shows no remorse. A gynaecologist who cared for Jyoti says for months she asked herself the same question. “Why?”

Jyoti, initially given the name Nirbhaya, meaning fearless in Hindi, to preserve her anonymity, died after 13 days. Her parents, given 2 million rupees (£21,000) by the government, set up the Nirbhaya Trust to help women who have experienced violence. “We want to help those girls who have no one,” Jyoti’s father says.

The government, to quell the protest that followed her death, set up a three-member commission, headed by JS Verma, a former chief justice of India and human rights lawyer. It received 80,000 responses and delivered a landmark 630-page report in 29 days, calling for the law concerning sexual violence to be modernised, removing terms such as “intent to outrage her modesty”.

New legislation failed to fulfil many of the report’s recommendations. Since then, the number of reported rapes has increased hugely, as more women come forward.

The juvenile is serving three years. Two of the convicted men are appealing against their sentence, a process that could take years. The judge said they should hang because “this is the rarest of cases”.

Except that it isn’t. It is one of many.

Just over two years after Jyoti’s rape, a woman was raped by four men, beaten, her eyes gouged out.

Jyoti’s father, a man of shining integrity, says of his daughter: “In death, she lit such a torch … whatever darkness there is in this world should be dispelled by this light.”


[Courtesy: The Guardian. Edited for sikhchic.com]
March 5, 2015
 

Conversation about this article

1: Kulvinder Jit Kaur (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada), March 05, 2015, 6:52 AM.

India is both hypocritical as well as delusional about its society's real values (or lack thereof). It is time to look squarely in the mirror and own up to these degrading practices. However, how can a Government rectify these abhorrent activities when a large number of its elected members have criminal records themselves. "Fish rots from the head downwards," or as the Indian saying goes, "Jaisa raja taisee praja" - 'The people merely reflect their leaders.' We hope the new AAP government in Delhi will lead the way and begin cleaning up the whole system. For the Sikhs this documentary will be neither chilling, nor unwatchable; they have lived through these atrocities on a mass scale in 1984 and the decade that followed!

2: Kaala Singh (Punjab), March 05, 2015, 8:14 AM.

Indian authorities have tried to stop this documentary from being aired anywhere. It is in the news that Google removed it but BBC aired it. The Indian government is now pursuing the BBC over this. True colours!

3: Kaala Singh (Punjab), March 05, 2015, 8:52 AM.

This was not an isolated incident. Sexual violence against hapless women is deeply ingrained in Indian culture since ancient times. One can now imagine what thousands of Sikh women were subjected to during the 1984 pogroms by mobs purportedly grieving the death of their "mother". While this particular rape incident caused a huge furore on the Indian scene, thousands of Sikh women who suffered a similar fate evinced no reaction from the country. They not only condoned these crimes but rewarded the perpetrators with money and high posts in the government. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost.

4: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), March 05, 2015, 12:10 PM.

These same little black-hearted men from U.P who descended on this innocent girl come from the same background as those monsters who attacked Sikh women during the 1984 pogroms.

5: Baldev Singh  (Bradford, United Kingdom), March 05, 2015, 12:13 PM.

What is needed at the end of this harrowing film is a note to say none of the protagonists were Sikhs despite having the Singh suffix. A true Sikh male would never harm any female and in fact would always come to the aid of any female anywhere on Earth.

6: Harman Singh (California, USA), March 05, 2015, 1:30 PM.

Typical ostrich behavior on india's part: bury your head in the sand and pretend that there is no problem or that the problem is resolved. "International conspiracy to defame India" - what a joke! If they spend as much energy fixing the problems as they spend on banning free expression, maybe things would improve someday.

7: N Singh (Canada), March 05, 2015, 10:11 PM.

The documentary can be see on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8jWYJ5n79s. Every Sikh should watch it and then ask yourself, do you still want to be identified as Indian or South Asian?

8: N Singh (Canada), March 06, 2015, 7:55 AM.

#5 - there is reference and a shot of the Gurdwara in Delhi in one scene of the movie since the bus was parked nearby. Fortunately there was no shot of the Nishan Sahib which would have sublimely tied the Gurdwara/Sikhs to the perpetators or the incident in the minds of the wider, often ignorant audience. We really need to build more organizations to deal with this sort of thing as and when it happens. Subliminal messaging is very powerful and a covert form of propaganda.

9: Kaala Singh (Punjab), March 06, 2015, 10:40 AM.

I have a feeling that something is wrong in the genes of these Bhaiyya people from UP, Bihar, MP and elsewhere, they are always up to something sinister. It is these people who did most of the killings of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 and these states and other areas inhabited by these people were the worst affected. It is India's misfortune that with an impoverished population of more than 500 million it is these people who wield the most political power and really control the country. The people in other parts of the country resent the rule of these people. Taxes collected from other parts of the country are disproportionately allocated to the Bhaiyya states, the logic used is that the states having bigger impoverished populations deserve more money and with Bhaiyyas multiplying like mosquitoes things have gotten worse. The same logic is used while allocating parliamentary seats, so the Bhaiyas have the largest number of MPs in the parliament. Do we understand now when India bans this film, it is essentially a Bhaiyya protecting a fellow Bhaiyya and also the crowds protesting so vehemently because the victim is also their own, while nobody ever raised their voice for the Sikh women who were also wronged in the same way. Are the farmers of Punjab reading this - they are creating a potential catastrophe for Punjab by employing these people in their fields and selling lands to them and destroying their young generation with drugs bought by easy money that comes from the subsidies which have destroyed the economy of Punjab.

10: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), March 06, 2015, 5:24 PM.

Commentator #9: We need to do it now! We need to stop calling ourselves 'Indians' or 'South Asians,' for a start.

11: Kaala Singh (Punjab), March 06, 2015, 8:20 PM.

The epidemic of sexual violence that India is facing is part of a degenerated culture. Have we not heard about the village councils in Haryana and some other states ordering the rape of family members of someone as punishment for even minor offences. Not so long ago,in Western UP, the love-affair between a Muslim girl and a Hindu boy led to the killings and rape of hundreds of Muslims. Muslim women were even pulled out of the state-protected refugee camps and violated at will. What India is essentially doing by banning this film is they trying to protect the benign image they have built for themselves after spending millions in marketing and promotion ("Incredible India!") as a so-called modern, secular and tolerant democracy to win favours and support from the world. Due to this image, India has been given access to sensitive technology while Pakistan is not, due to, inter alia, image issues. This is what some people call "information-warfare". India tried its best to prevent the information about the 1984 Sikh Genocide from reaching the world but failed. In my opinion, with the information revolution that we see today with modern technology and internet reaching even the far-flung villages, India will find it impossible to prevent the world from getting the real picture about its uncivilized behaviour.

12: H. Kaur (Canada), March 07, 2015, 2:14 AM.

Just some months ago, Arun Jaitley, India's Finance Minister and Minister of Information and Broadcasting, described the rape of Jyoti Singh as a minor incident that really damaged India's tourist industry due to all the publicity it received. Is it surprising that India would try to ban it? No, but their nerve in thinking they can ban it around the world is indeed surprising. They did get it removed from Youtube around the world. I watched it last night but now it is not there and I read that it got removed. The documentary didn't touch on the fact that rapes just as brutal aren't even noticed by the masses due to the victims being low-caste, unlike Jyoti Singh (they play on the poverty of the family but they had land and Jyoti's father says his brother is a judge; they had a washing machine, etc. and were better off than most are in that sad country). It also doesn't mention that India's army and cops are allowed to get away with impunity for rape and murder in places like Kashmir and Manipur (formerly in Punjab too). They can't even be charged no matter what they do and even if they do it in public unless some crook from the parliament in Delhi says they can be (fat chance of that happening since they sic them on the people in the first place).

13: Kulvinder Jit Kaur (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada), March 07, 2015, 2:29 AM.

#9. Yes, I am of the same thought. I was wondering about the mass scale outrage at the rape of this one female. Rightly so, BUT the absence of ANY outrage when thousands of Sikh females were violated in a similar fashion and Sikh were males butchered in the most cruel manner. Why was there no public hue and cry protesting against the perpetrators then? The general public was not outraged at all. Sikh victims felt so alienated. Something else that I wonder about is the quick death sentences meted out to the purported executioners of Indira Gandhi and others who have sought justice -- in the absence of the state's willingness to do its duty -- against the criminals behind the 1984 Genocide, but to this day I have not heard of a single rapist punished, leave alone sentenced to death, which is what the public is repeatedly demanding in the last two years.

14: Kulvinder Jit Kaur (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada), March 09, 2015, 10:10 AM.

Saw the documentary 'India's Daughter'. I think the main reason that the Indian government is asking for its ban is the key sentence uttered by the defense lawyer in which he emotionally utters that there are more than 250 sitting members of the present Indian Parliament who have cases against them of the same crime, i.e. Rape. They have gone un-indicted and unpunished and have become lawmakers! Therefore, why should his clients be punished for the same crime? He went on to say that first the accused Members of Parliament should be punished and then a similar punishment can be meted out to the rapists that he is defending. To my mind the Indian Government would not want the whole world to know this fact. This speaks volumes of the majority who elected Modi and his cohorts as well as the judicial system in India.

15: Kaala Singh (Punjab), March 10, 2015, 8:54 AM.

@14: Going by your figure - 250 out of a total of 543 MPs have rape cases against them. That means rapists form 50% of the Indian parliament! No wonder this film got banned in India.

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Film Documentary “India’s Daughter” Airs In Seven Countries In The West,
But Banned In India"









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