They Stereotyped Us, We Bought It
A badly made documentary on the 16 December 2012 rape incident broadcast by the BBC goes viral on social media, thanks to the British channel’s PR machinery, the controversy and the ban. But our liberals are more troubled by the proscription than the horrible as well as false image of Indians in general that the film projects.
If you carefully watch the documentary — banned in India, it went viral online — and read news related to this case, you will notice many things out of place. The film clearly has a hidden agenda.
Dubious film company
The company of filmmaker Leslee Udwin was created temporarily to produce one documentary. It is neither a credible firm that has a proven track record nor does it have the intention of producing more movies in future. The company under which the movie was produced has no traces currently.
“A newborn film company named Tathagat under whose banner Udwin produced the documentary and has left no traces of its existence. The funder of India’s Daughter, Tribeca Film Institute, which is financed by the Ford Foundation, a body under the scanner of Indian agencies for funding PRS’s Lamp Scheme in India. A carefully constructed web of film companies whose presence fade in and out as if through the lens of a camera. Behind the outrage on the social media and the anger of columnists and editorial writers over the ban of the documentary lies a story of deception, circumvention of rules and a host of missing links that suggest that Leslee Udwin’s story is not just what it seems to be—a gift to India,” reads this New Indian Express article.
Her role and intentions are very suspicious, as she did not travel to India under a film/documentary visa. Udwin shot the film with the help of a local journalist who helped her in obtaining local authorities’ approval to shoot the documentary. However, once the shoot was over, she issued a gag order to the journalist who could have silenced her potentially.
On 7 April 2014, Tihar Jail authorities detect violation in permission conditions for shoot and a legal notice is served. The notice to Leslee asks her to return the unedited footage within 15 days and also not to show the film as it violates the permission conditions. However, this matter was not highlighted till the documentary was released.
The details are available in activist Kamayani Bali’s website.
Dictated for a fee?
A disturbing point is the money paid allegedly to the rape convict Mukesh Singh for the interview. For a person from his economic stratum, Rs 40,000 was a large sum to rant whatever the documentary author dictated. He seems to have given up on the chances of his surviving the trial, but his family can use the money.
“An investigation by the Times in the Tihar Jail found that Mukesh Singh demanded Rs 2 lakh initially and later negotiated for Rs 40,000. The money was reportedly delivered to Mukesh’s family,” says this report.
A ploy for future?
In a previous interview with The Wall Street Journal in 2013, Mukesh had asked for forgiveness to the rape victim’s parents. In the documentary, however, he showed no sign of remorse as he mentioned the rape incident was “an accident”. The rapist says, “No, not at all; the girl was at fault.” The disgusting man now 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.”
It is unnerving and hugely disconcerting to surmise that, if pardoned, this man will ‘punish’ more women for not adhering to his code of conduct by raping them.
However, when Mukesh claims in the film to have been constantly on the wheel when his accomplices raped the victim and brutalised her, do we see a ploy for the future? If his involvement in the crime had been so indirect, obviously the special court would not have handed him the capital punishment. That can only mean he was paid to lie. If so, will the film turn into an excuse for another round of activism when the trial at the Supreme Court ends? Will vested interests, both Indian and foreign, demand commuting of his sentence if the judge orders death for him? Recall that ‘lack of incontrovertible evidence’ was the ruse for breast-beating NGOs who demanded clemency for Parliament House attack convict Afzal Guru, as if they knew more about the case than all our courts that the case went through up to the Supreme Court that had found him fit for the capital punishment!
Was he trained?
Knowing Mukesh’s education background, it is difficult to believe that he faced the camera so confidently. It did not come across as real. Only a professional actor can pull off such delivery of words without stammer or fumble in front of the camera.
The victim’s friend who accompanied her in that ill-fated bus journey, Awindra Pratap Pandey, is conspicuous in his absence in the ordinary documentary. He had talked about failures of society in his interviews with Indian television channels: people’s apathy or fear of police and judicial hassles, police inaction and lastly the delay in treatment at the hospital.
All this has not been shown in the documentary. And after the controversy over the film broke out, even Indian media sidelined the victim’s friend and focused only on the agenda set by Udwin and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Defence or offence lawyers?
The defence lawyers, knowing the law so well, blabbered their sick mind out foolishly in front of the camera. Did they believe it would earn them quick fame? They didn’t realise their statements would be viewed across the world and they would be branded as examples of ‘an ideal Indian man’s mentality’. Given their apparent ‘shock’ on being issued notices by the Bar Council of India, they must be ruing the fact that they were sweet-talked into the interviews. But then, it was expected of the filmmaker to interview other lawyers to get a broad view of the Indian mindset in general and that of professional advocates in particular.
Similarly, why were average Indian men not interviewed to know where the Indian society stood on the issue?
Before a rape victim is named in a media report or film for the first time, her permission or, in case of her death, her parents’ consent has to be sought in the form of a written letter from them to a magistrate — as per Indian law. Under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, Sub Section (1),
Whoever prints or publishers the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C, or section 376D is alleged or found to have been committed (hereafter in this section referred to as the victim) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.
Sub Section (2) says,
Nothing in sub-section (1) extends to any printing or publication of the name or any matter which may make known the identity of the victim if such printing or publication is:
(a) By or under the order in writing of the officer-in-charge of the police station or the police officer making the investigation into such offence acting in good faith for the purposes of such investigation; or
(b) By, or with authorisation in writing of, the victim; or
(c) Where the victim is dead or minor or of unsound mind, by, or with the authorisation in writing of, the next of kin of the victim.
The victim’s parents would obviously refer to her by name while speaking to the filmmaker. But that does not amount to consent.
But the unfortunate, deceased lady was named on multiple occasions and even her childhood photograph was shown. The film revealed the name of the college she studied at, the job she did, the movie she had been to that night, etc.
However, they did not give away so-called juvenile’s name. It seems everyone was instructed what to say and what not to say. The juvenile belongs to the Muslim community if tweets by Subramanian Swamy following the 2012 incident are to be believed. And the juvenile’s siblings and his parents’ face are blurred in the video. Do remember that he was the most violent of all rapists that night, and he was the one to insert an iron rod inside the victim and pluck her intestines out, as per the testimony of the others who are accused.
If this selective name-dropping does not betray a political agenda of the Western media, what does?
The film wants the international audience to believe the protests started from the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus and its left wing students’ union played an instrumental role in it. This was curious, given that the All India Students Association of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), which heads the union, formed a minuscule portion of the crowd that had gathered in and around central Delhi to protest the 16 December 2012 incident.
While the protest was largely spontaneous, it is worth investigating whether some sponsored people made the situation spiral out of control even as the police had initiated prompt action against the accused. When the police said, before its crackdown on protesters that they had intelligence reports that criminals had sneaked into the demonstrating groups, what were they indicating?
Do we not see an Indian left-liberal-Western agency connection here when the credit for the protests in the BBC-broadcast film goes to a small player? See it in the light of the fact that the protests saw good participation from different foreign-funded NGOs.
In addition, our own media has been playing the odd role of hyping up activism for quite some years now. Rather than projecting the right or cynical picture journalists are known for, and providing correct data, the television channels in particular have been observed offering platforms to those who attempt to use occasions such as these to launch themselves in electoral politics. Many activists of the then fledgling Aam Aadmi Party were seen with their trademark caps on and off.
Of course, the police could have exercised more restraint, not betraying their nervousness. But cool professionalism will take time to seep into India’s police forces. Till then, beware of the agencies that would let no such occasion of distress pass.
The protests later took an ugly turn, which could have been avoided. Solemn and sombre protests would have been a real tribute to ‘Nirbhaya’.
Even the Brits do not find the BBC’s India fixation plausible. Founder and former leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson tweeted:
The filmmaker was the first to rant after her public relations exercise in India went awry.
Other sections of the foreign media did not miss the opportunity to portray India in bad light in the backdrop of this badly made documentary. They raved and ranted how horrible we as a society were. Would they dare to record the ugly side of their societies or defy the authorities in their countries, knowing well that it could land the reporters in jail, end their careers or, in the worst case scenario, the media house could face sever legal action?
A headline in The Wall Street Journal’s blog reads. “Delhi Rape Documentary ‘A Mirror’ on Indian Society, Says Victim’s Father”.
This, even though the rape statistics of the West are far more alarming!
When, for example, Pope Francis said a firm “no” to women clergy, while saying he wants to see a “greater role” for women in Catholicism, did the Western media blame all Christians for a male chauvinist mindset?
Consider the issue where a professor at one of Germany’s oldest universities denied an Indian student a biochemistry internship because of the “rape problem in India”. The matter came to light after a colleague of the student posted emails exchanged between the professor at Leipzig University and the student on the website Quora. Both the student and his colleague did not identify themselves.
An email from professor Annette G Beck-Sickinger posted on Quora said: “Unfortunately I don’t accept any Indian male students for internships. We hear a lot about the rape problem in India which I cannot support. I have many female students in my group, so I think this attitude is something I cannot support.”
Under pressure from Germany’s Ambassador to India, the professor later apologised for her indiscretion. But that takes nothing away from the fact that BBC’s attempt to stereotype Indians has started bearing fruits in the minds of authorities in the West.
What we actually learn in India
If they wish to talk about culture, here is an original. However, partial projection of this seems to be another conspiracy with many hidden agendas.
यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः।
यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः।।
Nowhere in the world are women like those of this country. How pure, independent, self-relying, and kindhearted! It is the women who are the life and soul of this country. All learning and culture are centred in them. The saying, “या श्री: स्वयं सुकृतिनां भवनेषु— Who is the Goddess of Fortune Herself in the families of the meritorious” (Chandi)—holds good in this country, while that other, “अलक्ष्मीः पापात्मनां— The Goddess of ill luck in the homes of the sinful” (ibid.)—applies to ours. Just think on this. Great God! I am struck dumb with wonderment at seeing the women of America. “त्वं श्रीस्त्वमीश्वरी त्वं ह्रीःetc. — Thou art the Goddess of Fortune, Thou art the supreme Goddess, Thou art Modesty” (ibid.), “या देवी सर्वभूतेषु शक्तिरूपेण संस्थिता — The Goddess who resides in all beings as Power” (ibid.)—all this holds good here. There are thousands of women here whose minds are as pure and white as the snow of this country. And look at our girls, becoming mothers below their teens!! Good Lord! I now see it all. Brother, “यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः — The gods are pleased where the women are held in esteem”—says the old Manu. We are horrible sinners, and our degradation is due to our calling women “despicable worms”, “gateways to hell”, and so forth. Goodness gracious! There is all the difference between heaven and hell!! “याथातथ्यतोऽर्थान् ब्यदधात् — He adjudges gifts according to the merits of the case” (Isha, 8). Is the Lord to be hoodwinked by idle talk? The Lord has said, “त्वं स्त्रि त्बं पुमानसि त्वं कुमार उत वा कुमारी — Thou art the woman, Thou art the man, Thou art the boy and the girl as well.” (Shvetâshvatara Upa.) And we on our part are crying, “दूरमपसर रे चण्डाल — Be off, thou outcast!” “केनैषा निर्मिता नारी मोहिनीetc.—Who has made the bewitching woman?” My brother, what experiences I have had in the South, of the upper classes torturing the lower! What Bacchanalian orgies within the temples! Is it a religion that fails to remove the misery of the poor and turn men into gods! Do you think our religion is worth the name? Ours is only Don’t touchism, only “Touch me not”, “Touch me not.” Good heavens! A country, the big leaders of which have for the last two thousand years been only discussing whether to take food with the right hand or the left, whether to take water from the right-hand side or from the left, … if such a country does not go to ruin, what other will? “कालः सुप्तेषु जागर्ति कालो हि दुरतिक्रमः—Time keeps wide awake when all else sleeps. Time is invincible indeed!” He knows it; who is there to throw dust in His eyes, my friend?
Even in war, Hindus had ‘rules of engagement’ where the defeated ruler’s family and his kingdom were unharmed.
Will Indian journalists wake up?
The elite wish to have undiluted freedom of expression, even overriding calls of journalistic ethics, to propagate the Western view of rubbishing and pitying our nation. This attitude of the Indian commentariat must change.
As veteran journalist Prabhu Chawla puts it, “India’s daughter needs respect and security from an illuminated society rather than an ugly display of violations by the Western media reaping commercial gains from the poverty industry.”
The recent rape cases in India have become a publicity business for politicians, for media and for some shedders of crocodile tears. It’s time we changed the narrative at home.
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