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“India’s Daughter”: Government bans the December 16 Gang Rape Documentary

One can always count on our government to make matters worse, every time it attempts to find a solution to a problem. What should have been a ‘mole-hill’ turned into a huge ‘mountain’ courtesy the Home Ministry’s goof up in banning the telecast of “India’s Daughter”, a documentary on the December 16 gang rape. Directed by LesleeUdwin, the controversial BBC documentary was expressly banned by the Government and later by a Delhi Court, after a section of the documentary containing an extremely misogynistic interview of one of the convicts in the case, was reported in the media.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s initial reaction to the publication of the convict’s interview was that of shock. He was perplexed by the callous manner in which the permission was granted to BBC to interview Mukesh Singh, inside the high security Tihar jail in Delhi. As a consequence, Rajnath Singh had sent summons to Alok Kumar Verma, Tihar Jail DG as well as LesleeUdwin, the British Filmmaker and director of India’s Daughter. They have been asked to render an explanation as to how and why they were granted the permission to interview Mukesh, in contravention of state laws. However, Mr. Singh’s reaction is not an isolated one, and most certainly is not the first, as it comes after a horde of women MPs from the opposition had earlier, led protests against the publication of the interview and the documentary. In response, the Delhi Police, usually not so agile and aggressive, had immediately register a First Information Report against LesleeUdwin and successfully managed to garner a restraining order against the documentary.

In the said documentary, while Mukesh was confronted with several questions as to the details of the day of the gang rape (for which he is facing a death sentence; the case is currently in the Supreme Court), he went to make several misogynistic statement that are the reason for the furore surrounding the documentary. Mukesh went on to blame the victim for being responsible for the crime herself, for no ‘good girl’ would venture out of her house at night and that too with an ‘unknown boy’. He also goes on to say that the victim should have been “silent” and allowed the rape to happen. Singh is one of the four men sentenced to death by hanging, a sentenced temporarily as the Supreme Court is hearing the case.

While Udwin has argued that she had obtained all the requisite permissions from the government as well the Tihar jail authorities, for conducting the interview, the government as well as the police have countered her argument. Udwin has blamed the authorities for exhibiting a “knee-jerk hysteria” against the interview without even watching the documentary.

On Wednesday, a Delhi court too extended the stay on the publication of the documentary. The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sanjay Khanagwal extended the restraining order obtained by the Delhi Police. On Tuesday, Metropolitan Magistrate PuneetPahwa had passed a stay order against the telecast, transmission, uploading and publication of the documentary.

The central issue in the whole controversy pertain to the No Objection Certificate secured by LesleeUdwin, granted by the Home Ministry’s Joint Secretary in July, 2013 by the authority of the then Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. However, Mr.Shinde has denied sanctioning any such NOC or interview.

While, the government’s reaction is visibly inexplicable, the Home Minister has claim that the documentary is an attempt to tarnish the country’s image on international forums. As the BBC itself has resorted to the extreme moralizing on the issue, what is lamentable is that instead of circumspect consideration and careful introspection, our government and other public representatives have chosen to be bull-headed on the issue.

by Siddhartha Singh.