India is one of the very few surviving democracies with such a huge and diverse population where Freedom of Speech/Expression is embedded in the culture. Obviously, this has been translated into reality in its constitution that was framed after independence in 1947. This freedom hardly served the artists/filmmakers within India filled with controversies right from the extent of protest against their work to a complete ban (needless to mention the vandalism of property of the artists). The uproar surrounding the documentary India’s Daughter comes as no surprise as India is known for its aversion towards anything that its polity/government is not comfortable with.
India’s Daughter stands apart for its intent rather than content with many questioning the prerogative of an outsider (British) to comment on India’s problem. It is further fuelled by its perceived stereotype of Indian males on the issue of patriarchy. When Mukesh Singh (rape accused of Nirbhaya’s case 2012) in the documentary says Girls are meant to stay at home and not to party or go out at night, without any slightest sign of remorse for the crime committed, even the conservative faction of the society is outraged. What is more worrying is the impression of India that ruins the reputation of NRIs affecting their normal life. For example, the recent case of a German professor refusing admission to an Indian student on the grounds of rape problems in India is atrocious.
Of course, this was followed by a fitting reply by a German ambassador upholding the values of his country at the same time demolishing the prejudice of a professor.
Staunch liberals of India who generally take a firm stand against the ban also went on to criticize the documentary for its providing undeserving attention to the rape accused and his lawyers—whose comments were even worse. Perhaps, it is due to the fact that BBC is known for publishing condescending news articles projecting an image about India that are far from reality. The following are some of the useless story headlines about India that have made it to BBC news for no reason but sensation:
“Snake charmer sparks office panic”
“Indian snake charmers ‘held photographer captive’”
“The cash machine with a free cobra”
“The bull whose semen is worth $3,000 a shot”
“Cow dung burning ban near Taj Mahal”
“India cow row settled by DNA tests’”
After reading these, I was wondering that the intention behind such headlines maybe is the key to unlock the world’s peace and prosperity. 🙂
There is no denial by Indians about the content of the documentary and its veracity, but the questions asked are, “Why is a rape accused the main focus of the documentary? Why does BBC malign India and its prospects through such works? Despite having one of the lowest rape per capita in the world (taking into account the unreported cases), why is India projected as the rape capital of the world?”
The Indian Government was also unintentionally baited into this issue creating a sensation through the ban. Indians would have probably just overlooked the documentary as yet another one from BBC if not for the undue publicity by its own government. Proponents of free speech including me are baffled about this on how to handle such works that are true but give rise to unpleasant consequences leading to the question, “Should we ban the intent or the content?” —maybe neither. Whatever it may be, it is disheartening to hear the stories of direct victims of the documentary.