The Indian government is adept at shooting itself in the foot, especially on social issues. In the past three days, it has done this spectacularly by trying – and failing – to impose an international ban on an hour-long film, India’s Daughter, about an horrific and fatal rape that shocked the world when it took place on a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012.
The driver of the bus is one of four men sentenced to death for the rape of Jyoti Singh, who later died from her internal injuries. He shows no remorse in the film and says that women should be blamed more than men.
The BBC was to have released the film on its BBC4 channel in the UK on Sunday evening, March 8, to mark International Woman’s Day, but brought it forward and showed it last night because of the “intense interest” – a neat euphemism for the row and the government reaction. It said today that it showed the film because it “has a strong public interest in raising awareness about a global problem.”
Delhi’s police chief took out an injunction two nights ago and obtained a court order which prevents NDTV, a leading Indian channel, showing the film – it was also to have shown it on Sunday evening.
The home ministry issued a legal notice to the BBC and has asked social media sites, including YouTube which was showing it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69jX6DMfN_0 to remove the film by this evening, with warnings that sites might otherwise be blocked for non-compliance. The BBC appears to have complied, at least inside India where the film is this evening no longer accessible on YouTube. There is a message that “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by British Broadcasting Corporation.” The film is however still accessible on the BBC’s UK-only iPlayer recorded service and may well be elsewhere on social media.
It is not clear whether the Indian furor will affect plans for a launch by actresses Freida Pinto and Meryl Streep in New York on March 9, and for the film also to be shown in Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Canada.
There have been fiery debates in the Indian parliament and on television discussion programs. The parliamentary affairs minister, displaying Indian officialdom’s traditional conspiracy-theory reaction to events it does not like, even described the film as “an international conspiracy to defame India.”
I saw the hour-long film at a private preview two evenings ago, just before the Delhi police chief swung into action. It is horrifying because it reveals the crude assertion of male superiority and rejection of guilt by Mukesh Singh, the bus driver who, along with the three other defendants, has appealed against the death sentence to India’s supreme court. It also shows equally crude complacency among the defendants’ lawyers who unashamedly blame the woman victim for being out late in the evening with a male friend,.
Mukesh Singh says that “a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.” Suggesting that such a woman would put herself in a position to be assaulted he says “A decent girl would not roam around at nine o’clock,” adding: “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape”.
He also says that giving him and the other rapists the death penalty would increase the chance of women being killed. Before a woman might have just been left as they did with Jyoti Singh, but now she would be killed, “especially by criminal types”
A.P.Singh, one of the defense lawyers, is shown on the film saying in an earlier interview that “if my daughter or my brother engaged in premarital activities and disgraced herself, or allowed herself to lose face as a bad character” he would, in front of his wife and whole family, “put petrol on her and set her alight.” Asked in the film to confirm that was his view, he says “I still stand by that reply.”