On November 23, the Indian Netflix original series Delhi Crime won the International Emmy for Best Drama Series 2020, and quite obviously it has been celebrations galore closer home in India. Delhi Crime’s win marks the first International Emmy award for India, putting in on a global pedestal, and admirers of the art of cinema and well-wishers and fans have obviously not kept calm since. Everyone is celebrating, everyone is proud and rightfully so, but come to think of it, the victory came at a cost. The cost of the life of a young girl hailed Nirbhaya.
Don’t mistake me though, I too am elated with Delhi Crime’s victory, In fact, I was over the moon as I heard Shefali Shah’s rapturous voice shrieking in delight. However, each time my chest swells with pride, it sinks back as fast because at what cost is this triumph?
Let me make myself clear for those who don’t know how and where is “Nirbhaya” involved in the victory of this web-series. Richie Mehta’s Delhi Crime is based on the aftermath of the 2012 December Delhi gang rape case of Jyoti Singh. It was one of the darkest nights India had witnessed and it was followed by large-scale protests across the country with people taking to the streets in candle-light marches, demanding justice for Jyoti and praying for her to live. The incident led to the formation of the Justice Verma committee and necessary amendments to India’s laws on rape.
I personally found the show Delhi Crime to be perfect and beyond what India’s entertainment industry has produced in a long time, so there is no doubt in whether it deserved the award or not — it certainly did. Shefali Shah as Vartika (based on Chhaya Sharma; the real deputy commissioner of Delhi police) is flawless and so are the others such as Rasika Dugal and Adil Hussain who play significant characters with utmost care and sincerity, so yes, the Delhi Crime team well-deserve the International Emmy win a hundred per cent, but it still doesn’t change the fact that this show happened because one fateful night some men raped a young girl, and while there is nothing wrong for the makers to have created this series, it certainly does not feel right to me to celebrate it.
After all, Delhi Crime presents our failure, more than our success — failure in attaining women’s safety, failure in educating our boys, failure as a society that continues to be rooted in patriarchy and thus, refuse to be more equal in its treatment of people of different genders, failure in saving girls before Jyoti, Jyoti herself and girls after Jyoti. Success? Don’t think so.
Yes, we often did succeed in punishing the guilty, but how far does carceral justice go in ensuring similar crimes do not happen, is out there in the open for all of us to see. The four adult convicts were hanged in March 2020. In July, a 22-year-old rape survivor fought for justice in Araria, Bihar. More recently, in September, the nation woke up to the news of police burning the body of a young Dalit woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, who had struggled for life for two weeks after four upper-caste men raped her.
So does Delhi Crime‘s win really compensate for the loss? No, it doesn’t, it does not even come close. We are basically celebrating India’s first International Emmy win at the cost of a girl’s life, at the cost of a family’s sanity and peace. Now I know, people will call me a spoilsport, ask me to look at the brighter side so I make an apology beforehand — I am sorry that I can’t seem to find anything positive about India’s abysmal attitude towards women safety. I am sorry that I can’t just be happy — I truly am, because I want to be happy, but it’s physically impossible for me to smile when I know that Jyoti still is dead, her mother is still shattered and tomorrow there probably might be another rape case we don’t even know about or outrage over for a few weeks and then forget.
Delhi Crime’s existence is a reminder that India can produce good entertainment, but at the same time, it is also a reminder for a life lost, for a disgrace in the name of humanity, and of the general lack of safety of women in India. So while we cherish the victory, let us also be mindful of what the victory cost us. This triumph is bitter-sweet: more bitter than sweet but still a memorable one.
As deserving as this Emmy win is for Delhi Crime and for the Indians in general, I wish there was a way to bring Jyoti and millions like her back in exchange for this one token of pride.
Takshi Mehta is a student, mainly studying psychology, literature, and history, and also maintains a blog on socio-cultural issues and cinema. She also has another blog primarily for the LGBTQ community to share their stories. Her pronouns are She/Her. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter.
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