The December 16th gang rape was unprecedented. Nation-wide protests, international condemnation and political pressure like never before were felt by the nation. The incident swept the nation, wave after wave, with protestors pouring in like a never-ending storm. Another slap in the face was the BBC documentary which explicitly showed the mentality of most of the people involved in the case.
The controversies around the documentary have long since been picked apart, elucidated, debated upon and picked apart yet again. For me, the range of controversies differs from the already established ones. Was the government wrong in banning the documentary? Maybe. Were the men in the documentary extremely misogynistic? Maybe. Should the two lawyers be reported to the Bar Council of India? Maybe. But there is always a flipside to a story, and it is important to bring forth the flipside of India’s Daughter.
What struck me most was the stark difference in the educational background between the victim and the rapists. The victim was from an economically backward family, as were the rapists, and yet she excelled in academics. The impression created by the documentary was that poorer uneducated men are more prone to become rapists than their ‘better’ counterparts, though that is not always the truth.
The victim was extremely hard-working and studious. The instance where she helped the young boy who had stolen her purse is heartwarming. All in all, I feel that there has been an immense humanization of the victim (not that I have anything against this fact). The feeling I got from the documentary is that we should all sympathize with the victim because she was from a good family and because she was her parents’ only child. The question that arises here is that do we really need to know the woman’s background in order to empathize and/or sympathize with her? Can we not look at her as a woman? No matter what her economic, academic or family background, the gang rape was a heinous crime and no woman, rich, poor, educated, illiterate, sensitive or otherwise should have to go through such a thing.
Another question that came to my mind while watching the documentary was the authenticity of it. The prime source, the only eye-witness was conveniently absent from the documentary. His contribution to the documentary, however small, would have added a tinge of authenticity and accountability to it.
In no way am I belittling, insulting or condemning the documentary, I believe it sends a strong message to the world about how feminism is needed in every household, rich or poor. It shows us that education is not a substitute for progressiveness (the lawyers were highly educated, or so I’m hoping). It also depicts the deep-rooted orthodoxy in the general Indian population. But India is facing a paradigm shift in mentalities, powered mainly by our generation.
The documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ was a heart-rending insight into the life of a twenty-something medical student. No one deserves to be treated the way she was, no one deserves to die the way she died. The perpetrators need to be punished, not paraded around as misogynists. From a documentary which portrayed the general mentality, it was something that ‘portrayed Indian men in a bad light’ or a reason why ‘misogynist lawyers should be debarred’. The flipside of the documentary is that though it was emotionally poignant, I believe that the controversies around it undermined the statement it wanted to make.
Although ‘India’s Daughter’ acquainted us with Jyoti Singh’s case, I feel that ‘I Am Nirbhaya’ directed by Areeb Hashmi and Stalin K leaves behind a far more credible and strong message since it typecasts neither the victims nor the perpetrators.