By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
A few days ago our finance minister and the legal brain of the current government Mr Arun Jaitley spoke in a conference and said that ‘you can not ban anything in the current age of information’. ‘How can any government ban any thing when the flow of information is so far and vast he said’. It is not more than a month when the government was seen hiding itself in the war cries of nationalism and arrogance of ‘we will see’ and ‘India’s reputation is being targeted’. It look childish when our lawmakers speak such a language in Parliament where a number of politicians are sitting who have publically supported khap Panchayats as well as killings and rapes too for political purposes. A video online on the Indiatimes website reported that some of the supporters of a rabble rousing BJP MP’s supporter openly asking to rape even the ‘dead women from Muslim community’ and it shamefully does not outrage us. When Hindutva lunatics are roaming free and seeking revenge, the ‘conscious keeper’ of this country, in the ‘Times Now’ does not feel comfortable to carry a campaign against it. Our ‘conscience’ does not wake up when Maya Kodnanai and all the accused from Gujarat have been released by the ‘courts’ and when Teesta Setalwad face charges because she fought against the communal violence and the political which was party to it.
It is strange that ‘Times of India’ which has always stood for ‘freedom of expression’ and has not shied away from publishing naked and titillating photographs of ‘famous’ people including film stars to the extent of even violating their privacies, is campaigning this time, through a megalomaniac called Arnab Gosami who think that except ‘him’ none think for India and none has a right to claim propriety on Indian nationalism except him. Women activists have given a call to boycott him but I would say all the politicians and activists should boycott Arnab and his ‘Times Now’. It is a channel of the corporate, for the corporate and by the ‘Corporate’, which massages the Indian egos through tainted ugly nationalism. Sadly, when we want public opinion be developed against the mindset, which the rapists are having, Times of India has come for the rescue of such a mindset. I always say that India has enough laws but it does not has the capacity to introspect. It is simply living in denial mode and Arnab Goswami and Times of India are exploiting that mindset in India.
The entire issue of anti woman mindset that starts from the birth of a girl has been hijacked in the jingoism of ‘nationalism’ by these media thugs and the lobby of the government which is forcing the media to create an impression as if ‘rapist’ has got a ‘platform’ to project his view point. The fact is that all court proceedings are already completed and the convicts have already been sentenced to deaths, which will need Supreme Court’s scrutiny. So, it is really not the case of trying to influence the courts, which ‘Times Now’ and many others do everyday without fail. The entire ‘News hour’ is nothing but a public ‘lynching’ of the ‘opponents’ done by a rabble rousers who is enjoying the support of hyper ‘upper-caste middle classes’. The way some of them carried ‘news’ of ‘government’s ‘notice’ send to BBC as if it is a very great act of the party with ‘transparency’. At the end of the day Arnab had egg on his face when BBC rescheduled the broadcast of the film four days earlier and the film, thank to Arnab Goswami and his foolishly negative campaign became a big hit on the youtube. The question is why the ‘Times of India’ allowed its channel to carry this utterly disgraceful propaganda which ultimately hurt the ‘freedom of expression’ and creativity. I wish we had a Ramnath Goenka today who lead ‘Indian Express’ from the front and did not succumb to the dirty tricks of the government during emergency when the rest of the media in India was ‘crawling’, the ‘Indian Express’ kept the voice of the people high. Today, it pains to see the pathetic condition of the media lampooning itself and championing the cause of censorship on behalf of the government. During emergency the entire media was one even when we saw many fought openly while others surrendered yet they did not carry sinister campaign against each other. Today, media PR forgot its ethical duty and unfortunately supported such censorships, which are unwarranted in this age.
It is equally painful that the ‘Times of India’ and ‘Times now’ was picking up small issues like ‘revealing’ the name of the victim. We must understand that original name of Nirbhaya is revealed by her parents and there is nothing unusual of that. It is not for the first that a film is being made on rape victim. In 1994, Shekhar Kapoor made film ‘ The Bandit Queen’ on the life of ‘Phoolan Devi’ and though there were charges of ‘commercialism’, the film was accepted by the people. The issue of not revealing the name of the rape victim comes through a ‘mindset’, which considers sexual violence as ‘end of life’ for woman. It is important to reemphasize the fact that a woman does not become ‘jinda laash’ as Sushma Swaraj, now our honorable external affairs minister, claimed in Parliament in 2012. A woman neither loses her identity nor dignity just because she has been violated or raped. It is important that society changes its attitude and it wont be possible without taking the issue head on.
To make the issue as an issue of ‘Indian’ verses ‘foreign’ is simply farcical. In reality ‘Times Now’ can at most be compared to ‘Fox News’ in United States where ‘loudspeakers’ sensationalise the issues on daily basis. The fact is that BBC has a longterm relationship with India and has been acknowledged as more credible source of information in far rural India than the government owned Doordarshan and Aakashwani during the emergency days. We all got the tuned to BBC London to get the factual information on ‘operation Blue Star’ or the death of Indira Gandhi through BBC when the government radio had blanked out the entire news. The news channels in India are not doing a great service to their credibility through such disinformation campaign.
One must ask the question as how many Indian News channels allow the individual filmmakers this liberty. Let them reveal as how much money are they ready to put in for such stories, which need time and investigation. Most of them have ‘slaughterhouses’ in their TV studios, which is the easiest and safest way to carry their prejudiced agenda and disinformation campaign on important people’s issues. So, as far as credibility and quality is concerned, BBC remains far ahead of any Indian news channel.
So, for me, it is important we defend this right of the filmmaker to make a film. No filmmaker or writer will surrender her or his right to write a story to the jailer or authorities. We take permission to follow security procedures and once they are followed, it is not the concern of the authorities as what did the accuse say or what is the script of my film or story. It will be a dangerous sign if such thing ever happens than it would be impossible to expose the corruption and break many stories that have so far come out in public domain. The judicial process is over and the fact is that the case against the accused will be more stringent with this. So, to say that attempt has been made to ‘influence’ the case is highly contested and untrue.
Much noise is being made on the statement of the accused Mukesh Singh in the film. I can bet that it is making mountain out of a mole. For me, that only show what ails our society. Mukesh Singh remain unrepentant and is actually speaking what his ‘lawyers’ have told him. The biggest interviews of the film are outside the Tihar Jail where no ‘security’ is violated. They are the lawyers of the accused who have taken oath to the constitution of India and to defend it. Yes, all the accused are already sentenced and we know Supreme Court too will upheld their sentences as there is so much public outrage on the issue but what do you do with the mindset of those who are ‘suppose’ to ‘defend’ the constitution. So the most unfortunate, unethical and outrageous statement that has come out in this documentary is not really from the precincts of Tihar Jail but outside it and by the lawyers of the two accused. Indian judiciary and Bar has to think as what can it do with such people and whether they deserve to be in the profession or not.
There is no big deal about the film except the fact that it is not preachy in nature and try to address the issue through social prism unlike most of our ‘activists’ who give us ‘laws’ to resolve a crisis which we all are facing. That the film does not have many ‘experts’ is better side and left many of them ‘bitter’ but then you cannot expect a documentary to cover and resolve all the issues that women face in India. It fall short on many account but it is not giving the accused a ‘platform’ to propagate their views. It has succeeded in bringing the issue back to the forefront but it fails on many counts and the biggest irony is that the filmmaker was in India for two years to make the documentary and did not have time to visit rape victims of Bhagana’s Dalit families who have been sitting on Dharna. It failed to capture the imagination of Dalit victims of upper caste violence where rape is a tool to assert your caste supremacy and hundreds of such cases have been reported. The film make a case that India’s youth are ‘asserting’ against rape violence but it is a crude joke that the same caste mind does not come forward and speak the same language when the victim is a Dalit. If Indians have woken up against rape culture, we would have seen much more politicized protests all over the country but the fact is that those rape protests though might have been spontaneous outburst but there is a fact that Hindutva element infiltrated into these movements and gave it a shape as if this culture of rape and impunity was started with the government of the day. None spoke of social violence and hidden apartheid existing in this country and the filmmaker needed no permission from Tihar to visit Jantar Mantar and speak to these victims of Jat caste violence. It would have done much better help to international community and expose the hypocrisy of the upper caste Indians as why India does not respond to the cases of rape violence Dalits in the villages and Muslim victims during the so called communal disturbance. Why our heart does not beat or why we do not come to the street listening to painful and traumatic conditions of rape victims of Mujaffarnagar violence 2013 or those faced similar trauma in Gujarat 2002. Clear enough, a ‘rape’ stirs our ‘conscious’ when the victim is from among ‘us’ and accused the not like ‘us’.
Blood relations and caste identities are most important in India so someone may be criminal for ‘others’ but become my ‘hero’ if the caste matches. Your brother cannot do anything. My husband is the best one. My father is the best one in the world are the often-repeated excuses when the criminals are saved. The statement of the wife of accuse Mukesh Singh reflect the ‘dilemma’ of an Indian woman who is framed in the perception of ‘my husband is my God’. ‘ What will I do, if my husband is no more’, she says. And then pure generalization as what happened to ‘others’ and that this is not the ‘only’ case and why her husband is being targeted. Sadly, this is the problem as I mentioned with this ‘cultural’ society where all the ‘wrongs’ are ‘done’ by ‘others’. This is acute because this woman without any fault of her will now face ostracisation and isolation of an absolutely Hippocratic society where the punishment is much severe. So, Mukesh Singh will get whatever punishment for his act but his wife is getting much harsher punishment and we do not know how people will behave with her and the children ? A society based on prejudices will not treat them kindly for sure. That is why this issue is much larger and just does not revolve around poor as being described. We have seen the wives of senior officers and Ministers whose husband were caught and sentenced for ‘murder’ and rape standing with their husbands and accusing the women. This culture of male impunity in society needs a big assault from the right thinking people.
At the end a lot have been spoken about this film and how it failed on many things. Our leaders were ‘saddened’ that Tihar Jail was ‘breached’ and it provided the convict a platform to justify his ‘act’. Lawyers have written that they ‘oppose’ ban but it ‘violate’ Indian law and administration. Arnab Goswami is already angry with it and many other thing. After watching it, I can say, if the producer director had not used the Tihar footage and instead of added to Sushma Swaraj’s not only ‘Jindalash’ speech in Parliament but also her famous of ‘tonsuring’ her head and living like a ‘widow’ if Sonia was made Prime Minister of India once UPA came to power in 2004, the film would have exposed the mindset and the political class that we have. India have all the great laws in existence but it does not have a will power to fight against this patriarchical brahmanical structure which is the root of violence against women. We live on constant denial and are blaming the people from outside to defame us. Don’t we know that after the Nirbhaya incident countries world over issued particular guidelines for their female citizens regarding safety measures and precautions to be taken in India. Why didn’t we get offended when media was shouting and exposing each thing in 2012. The fact is we are now in 2014 and a different government at the centre whose leaders used all the protest movement and projected as if those problems are created by that particular government. Arvind Kejriwal too used the opportunity to further his political agenda and in the din of righteousness we ignored the bigger issue. It is not that we did not expose the duplicity of the political class when they were shedding crocodile tears while the people from Bhagana, sitting on the protest against the rape committed by upper caste youths, were waiting and waiting but the same political class irrespective of parties did not bother to raise their issues and visit them. BBC’s film failed to expose India’s caste impunity, which rapes women at their whims and fancies to assert its supremacy in India’s villages. It is sad that our activists and human rights ‘champion’ did not have time to narrate things when they critique the film, instead the farce of nationalism and technicalities of the matter are being raised and that shows the hollowness of the protests and the human rights movement itself which keep quiet on the violence against Dalit women and make it just a plain gender issue. India will never answer that. BBC documentary failed us in that but nevertheless it is a milestone as it still exposes Indian society and its hypocrisy in dealing with the issue.