My heart feels numb and my thoughts are scattered. I’m sitting her feeling indescribable. I won’t lie and say that the story of Jyoti Singh has not touched me before. I remember very well hearing the news that she had died. I remember sitting here, on this exact same sofa and writing me heart out. I was sad and angry but most of all I was appalled of the inhumane act which caused her death. Right now, I have a similar feeling, more than two years later, having watched the documentary, India’s Daughter, made by Leslee Udwin for the BBC.
The international interest in this documentary has been immense and similarly to the time that this awful gangrape happened, India’s attitude has been there for the world to see. The nation took what felt like an age to do something in response to the cries for change its own people were calling for. And now, when a British journalist has been brave enough to talk to one of the perpetrators, Mukesh Singh, who is currently on death row, India has stunned once again. Ministries have called for a ban on the documentary because jail authorities allegedly accused Udwin of broadcasting snippet of the interview with Singh which hasn’t been vetted by them.
Typing the above, I feel absolutely unable to fathom why such a stupid excuse is being relied upon when the real reason is that of fear. A fear of the world looking at India in a way which makes the country look unable to respect women. A fear that, just by the comments of Singh, the world will see that the whole mentality of Indian society is disrespectful to a woman. The ministers and authorities are quite happy with these attitudes being a part of their everyday life but when it comes to a magnification that is going to be shown on a world stage, they try to hide it. How? By imposing a ban. I mean, seriously! If you can’t be brave enough to accept the flaws in your own society then any condemnation of your own wrongs is more or less worthless.
The documentary itself is very well-made. It is in no way just about the brutal attack on Jyoti Singh. She has always stood as a symbol for change. However, this documentary highlights the fundamental needs that Indian society lacks towards women and also the lack of responsibility towards these breeds of men who believe raping a young girl is just an everyday activity and their birth right. When Singh is heard saying that when a girl is being raped she should not fight back but rather just “let it happen”… when he says that a woman should be in the kitchen at home at night and not going out with friends… when he explains that his brother was one of the rapists and describes him to be chasing girls as if it was his profession in life… it’s understandable why India wanted to shy away from showing this programme. However, I think this is all the more reason it should be shown. Let the nation see that men like this exist. Let the people of India stand up to their government, let them put pressure on the judicial system to make sure that such cases are not just brushed under the carpet, let them push for an education system which teaches sons to respect women.
Singh speaks details about the night of 16th December 2012 in greater detail than perhaps has been documented before. You hear him talk about the removal of Jyoti’s intestine and how he wrapped it up in a cloth and threw it away. He also talks about the other culprits, many of who lived in the same “semi-slum” (as the documentary calls it) as he did. The parents of the rapists are also shown with one of the shots showing a wife not able to understand why her husband has been given the death penalty. She feels he should be punished but then allowed to live so that he can protect her. Most of the accounts that are part of the documentary are very difficult to digest. This is perhaps why it makes for an interesting watch. Those accounts, however, are balanced out by what authorities and experts say as well as the absolutely heart-wrenching parts where Jyoti’s parents and friend talk about her. It is somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster of a watch which is why it is so important for India to see.
India’s Daughter gives a very harrowing insight into the mindsets of the defense lawyers too, which is an eye-opener in itself. When you have a person in a position of authority, who families readily invite to represent them in a court of law… and these very lawyers put their own illogical thoughts into the case, the whole matter takes a turn for the worse. One lawyer in the programme is heard saying that if his sister or daughter was seen roaming with a boy in the night then he would stand her in front of his whole family, put petrol on her and set her alight. Yes… you’re reading right. THIS is not only the mentality of a lawyer related to the Nirbhaya case but also indicative of the attitude of men in the country. Sitting in London and knowing not of any other society’s rules and regulations, I’d like to question why, if a girl goes out at night with friends, is she an easier target for a rape? Why is she seen to be bringing shame onto a family? Is she prostituting herself? No. Is she committing crime? No. So why? And what has it got to do with anyone else when her parents and her family know exactly where she is and who she’s with? Why does it even matter?
There is so much more I could mention but, in the hope that the documentary’s ban WILL be lifted in the sub-continent some time soon, I will conclude with just a few thoughts. To those in India who have imposed a ban, if you want your nation to grow strong and be seen as a country which isn’t regressive and refuses to be brought down by any kind of oppression, your people need to see India’s Daughter. You need to let Indian audiences see the reality of sexual attacks, of rape, of the way women are treated and what changes should and need to be made. However, most of all, you need to lift the ban on India’s Daughter because it’s a story of one of your own. She’s your daughter. Her parents are a symbol of you. They are lost, they are repentant that they could not protect their beloved child, they saw her lying in hospital before they lost her unable to function due to so many injuries… and yet they are still hopeful. They want their daughter to be that flame of hope for the number of girls who go through similar ordeals but whose voices are drowned out. They want their Jyoti to be just as her name suggests; a light which shines and creates a path for their society to make the changes which are so necessary for future generations.
India, be strong. Your strength will lead the way to a better understanding and therefore a better future. Don’t let the shining beacon that is the memory of Jyoti blind you. India’s Daughter is something you really need to see.
For those who might want to read my blog when Jyoti Singh sadly passed away, here it is: