With Women’s Day around the corner, the brands are losing their campaign space on the internet to the debate about the documentary India’s Daughter. The documentary was a BBC venture and it tells the story of the rape that shook the nation on 16th Dec 2012. Mukesh Singh, one of the accused awaiting death penalty, is interviewed in the documentary and he bares it all. He says a number of things that are so inherently misogynistic that it hurts the sentiments of the Republic of the offended. Hence, the government went ahead and stopped it from being aired. Kudos by the way!
Now, what was so offensive about what Mukesh said? He said the woman needed to be taught a lesson. Why was she out at night with a guy? She clearly deserved it. At one point he also said that because of his death penalty, now other rapists will just kill the woman they rape.
So, basically Mukesh was the mouthpiece for most of India. And of course truth hurts, and hence India retaliated with its favourite alternative to ‘You’re grounded’. Again, Kudos!
My thoughts on the documentary are varied. I watched it and found I can be angry and sad at the same time. It is a true representation of the misogynistic mindset that is rampant in India. Being a writer, I also recognized the slight alterations to truth in the documentary. The clearly thought out & scripted answers of the tutor were a trifle worrisome. Did the director feel that the victim had to be noble and honourable and an absolutely splendid person, for the rape to be more of a crime than it is? Is there a thought behind it that says that the victim cannot be an ordinary girl with ordinary troubles? Would that not sadden the viewers enough?
I was also curious to know how they had gotten Mukesh to spill the beans. Did he do it because he has nothing to lose? Then I remembered that the appeal is still pending at the Supreme Court. So, why would he confess on camera? Was it that he thought it has the power to save him? He says in the interview that he was driving the bus the entire time. So that means, he did not really take part in the act of brutalizing Jyoti, but was an adversary to the crime. I am no lawyer, but that makes me wonder if his lawyers can somehow get him off death row with that information. Also, if he is lying about this, what else is he lying about?
The other thought that kept bugging me was the name of the documentary and treatment a few interviewees in the documentary. Why name it India’s Daughter? Aren’t we fighting for the right of a woman to exist just as her? We need to stop talking about women in the possessive. There was also the instance where the interviewed Usha Saxena was described as a ‘Mother’. She is clearly an activist and an educated member of the society. Why tag her as a mother when you can use anything else?
My feminist mind was offended at these points. These might seem trivial, but the labelling is an indication of the mindset and thought process.
My feminist friends in India have had varied views about the documentary. Some have legal reasons for opposing the screening while other have ethical ones. More still think it is the English saviour complex at work behind the making of this documentary. I understand the legal implications, but I believe that a thinking Indian would see the documentary for what it is. It hasn’t been shot in a biased way.
I felt that it also pointed out why Mukesh thinks the way he does. It is a culture at fault. He was taught misogyny from the time he was born. He is at least an adept learner.
I think the documentary needs to be seen. Do not do to others what you wouldn’t want to be done to you. Let Indians make their own choices and form their own opinions. And this film will not contain anything that any right-wing political leader hasn’t already said about women.
I know the debate is here to stay, and that each person will continue the hashtag activism while the documentary will be downloaded by the minute. All I am saying is, make space for the things that are unsettling. That’s when you know what you really stand for.
Featured Image: A screenshot of the documentary from Youtube | manoramaonline.com