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India Chilling & Unwatchable: Film Documentary "india’s Daughter"

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by SPN Reporter, Mar 6, 2015.

  1. SPN Reporter

    SPN Reporter
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    India’s Daughter -- the documentary film screened on BBC TV last night -- verged on the unwatchable... It told of the gang rape – on a bus by five men and one juvenile in December 2012 – of Jyoti Singh Pandey, a Delhi medical student who died in hospital of her wounds.

    The unspeakable details of her ritual humiliation belong in another century, and yet they tell of a deeply ingrained culture of female repression in India.

    A woman is raped in India every 20 minutes.

    india-daughter.jpg

    For its eye-watering brutality, and also for its resonant symbolism, this was the case to ignite furious demonstrations, which in turn were violently suppressed by riot police.

    Peering behind the headlines and the hysteria, Leslee Udwin’s overpowering documentary featured interviews with a wide range of people connected to the case: not only Jyoti’s dignified parents, but also one of the rapists, another rapist’s young wife and the parents of two more of the culprits.

    All of them were living with the gruelling consequences of poverty, lack of education and a culture which privileges boys and turns a blind eye to the abortion of female foetuses.

    Jyoti’s life was an attempt to break this cycle. Memories of those close to her suggested a shining embodiment of new aspirational India.

    https://player.vimeo.com/video/121374149

    But female lawyers, politicians and academics queued up in the film to explain that India doesn’t know how to cope with a young generation of emancipated women, a position hideously corroborated by the defendants’ lawyers.

    “In our society,” said one, “we never allow a girl to come out of the house after 6.30 with any unknown person.”

    This was much the mildest of his endorsements on the male-oriented status quo.

    The interview with Mukesh Singh, who drove the bus and joined in the rape, was the most marrow-chilling of all.

    [Please note: Despite the last name ‘Singh’ of both the victim and the rapist, neither is Sikh,]

    He explained that any woman who resists rape, as his victim did, is begging to be murdered, and even argued that the death penalty for rape could only be bad news for victims.

    “Now when they rape they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Especially the criminal types.”

    He had just enough humanity to flinch as the list of Jyoti’s injuries – from bite marks to the removal of her intestines – was read out to him.

    While the UK broadcast was brought forward from International Woman’s Day on March 8 to last night, earlier this week the Indian government secured an injunction banning the broadcast of the documentary.

    Make of that what you will.

    The BBC brought forward the transmission of the hard-hitting documentary about the gang rape of a young woman in Delhi following the decision by Indian authorities to ban the film.

    “India’s Daughter” had been scheduled for Sunday, International Women’s Day, but it aired on Wednesday night (March 4, 2015) on BBC4.

    Documentary-maker Leslee Udwin, meanwhile, was reported by India’s NDTV channel to have decided to fly out of India due to fears she could be arrested.

    The television channel also broadcast what it said was Udwin’s last interview before she left India.

    “I’m very frightened what’s going to happen next -- I predict the whole world will point fingers at India now,” Udwin said. “It’s a tragedy -- you’re shooting yourself in the foot.”

    The BBC said it made the decision to bring forward the airing of “India’s Daughter” following international interest in the programme about the brutal rape in December 2012 of 23-year-old physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh.

    BBC4 editor Cassian Harrison said the decision to move the “powerful and compelling” programme was made, “due to the international interest” in it.

    “From our perspective, given the strong public interest we feel it’s important it gets out”, said Harrison, adding: “it is a shame that the authorities in India don’t want it to be shown.”

    The BBC has not received any correspondence from the Indian government but said it would be unlikely to be able to ban it in the UK due to it being under a different jurisdiction.

    The move was made after Indian authorities banned the domestic broadcast of the film and said they were also trying to prevent it from being shown worldwide.

    India’s parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu declared: “We can ban the film in India. But this is an international conspiracy to defame India. We will see how the film can be stopped abroad too.”

    Udwin appealed to Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, to try and help get the ban overturned and “deal with this unceremonious silencing of the film”.

    “India’s Daughter” includes interviews with one of the men convicted of the crime, who is now in prison in Delhi and waiting for the supreme court to hear his appeal against the death sentence.

    In it, Mukesh Singh suggests his victim would not have been killed if she had not fought back against her attackers and appears to blame her for not behaving like “a decent girl”.

    He says: “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy.”

    Although it has been banned in India, “India’s Daughter” is due to be aired by broadcasters in several countries including Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Canada, as well as on BBC4.

    * * * * *

    Jyoti, 23, had cause to celebrate. It was no ordinary Sunday.

    “Happiness was just a few steps away,” says her father, Badri Singh, a labourer. He and his wife, Asha, originally from Uttar Pradesh, had sold their family land, to provide schooling not just for their two sons but also Jyoti.

    “Papa,” Jyoti had instructed her father, “whatever money you’ve saved for my wedding, use it for my education.”

    Badri’s brothers wondered why he was wasting money on a girl.

    On this Sunday, 16 December 2012, Jyoti, a name that means light and happiness, had just completed her medical exams to become a doctor. Speaking excellent English, she spent nights working in a call centre from 8 pm until 4 am, slept for three hours, then studied. Her ambition was to build and run a hospital in her family’s village. “A girl can do anything,” she would say.

    But that evening, in Delhi, she decided to go to the cinema to see “The Life of Pi” with a male friend. At 8.30 pm, on the way home, the pair got into an off-duty charter bus.

    “India’s Daughter“, a powerful, brave and heart-wrenching documentary made by Leslee Udwin, provokes grief and anger but also pity for the ignorance. It charts what then happened on that moving bus as Jyoti was brutally raped by five men and a 17-year-old (“the juvenile”), eviscerated, then thrown on to the street.

    It shows how for the next 30 days across India, women and men demonstrated on the streets of the country’s cities, calling for the equality recognised in India’s constitution but never delivered, marking what a former solicitor general, Gopal Subramaniam, calls in the film “a momentous expression of hope for society”.

    “It was an Arab spring for gender equality,” Udwin says. “What impelled me to leave my husband and two children for two years while I made the film in India was not so much the horror of the rape as the inspiring and extraordinary eruption on the streets. A cry of ‘enough is enough’. Unprecedented numbers of ordinary men and women, day after day, faced a ferocious government crackdown that included teargas, baton charges and water cannon. They were protesting for my rights and the rights of all women. That gives me optimism. I can’t recall another country having done that in my lifetime.”

    On Monday, 9 March, Hollywood actresses Freida Pinto and Meryl Streep will attend a screening in New York, launching a worldwide “India’s Daughter” campaign against gender inequality and sexual violence against women and girls. It begins by 20 million pupils viewing the film and taking part in workshops in Maharashtra, a state that includes Mumbai.

    Each country has its own appalling bloody tally. India has a population of 1.2 billion. A rape occurs every 20 minutes. In England and Wales, 85,000 women are raped every year. In Denmark one in five women has experienced a sexual assault. Sexual assault, rape, acid attacks, murder, domestic violence, the termination of female foetuses, sex trafficking and female genital mutilation are all manifestations of male power.

    What is writ very large in “India’s Daughter“, but camouflaged in other countries where equality is more strongly embedded in law, is the low value placed on females and the determination of some men, educated as well as the impoverished, to keep women padlocked to the past.

    “We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman,” says one man in Udwin’s film. What is shocking is that he is ML Sharma, defence lawyer for the men convicted of Jyoti’s rape and murder.

    A second defence lawyer, AP Singh, says if his daughter or sister “engaged in pre-marital activities … in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight”.

    “I began this film with a narrow focus,” Israeli-born Udwin, 57, says. “‘Why do men rape?’ I discovered that the disease is a lack of respect for gender. It’s not just about a few rotten apples, it’s the barrel itself that is rotten.”

    Udwin was an actress before becoming an award-winning producer. Her work includes “Who Bombed Birmingham?” about the miscarriage of justice that imprisoned the Birmingham Six, and “East is East“.

    For “India’s Daughter” she spent 30 hours interviewing rapists including Gaurav, a 34-year-old man serving 10 years for raping a five-year-old.

    “He told me in minute detail what he had done. How he had taken off her knickers. How her eyes were wide with fear. How he had done it front and back. I asked him how tall she was. He stood up and put his hand above his knee. I asked him, ‘How could you do something so terrible that would ruin a child’s life?’

    He said, ‘She was a beggar girl, her life was of no value.’”

    Udwin found the girl, Neeta, now aged 10, and plans to make a film about her family’s resilience and resistance.

    “She is doing OK. Her mother is a beggar and has put Neeta and two other children through school.”

    Central to “India’s Daughter” is an interview in Tahir jail, Delhi, with Mukesh Singh, driver of the bus. His brother, Ram, was found hanging in his cell months after the trial. The two lived in a Delhi slum.

    Also involved was Pawan Gupta, a fruit seller; Vinay Sharma, a gym assistant; unemployed Akshay Thakur; and “the juvenile”, living on the streets since he was 11.

    They had all been drinking before going out where “wrong things are done”.

    Mukesh Singh says: “You can’t clap with one hand – it takes two hands. A decent girl won’t roam around at night. A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy … about 20% of girls are good.”

    Jyoti fought back.

    Mukesh says: “She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they would have dropped her off after ‘doing her’ and only hit the boy.

    “The 15 or 20 minutes of the incident, I was driving the bus. The girl was screaming, ‘Help me, help me.’ The juvenile put his hand in her and pulled out something. It was her intestines …We dragged her to the front of the bus and threw her out.”

    Udwin, in Hindi, reads a list of Jyoti’s injuries to Mukesh, caused by an iron bar and multiple rapes. They include bite marks and massive internal injuries. He shows no remorse. A gynaecologist who cared for Jyoti says for months she asked herself the same question. “Why?”

    Jyoti, initially given the name Nirbhaya, meaning fearless in Hindi, to preserve her anonymity, died after 13 days. Her parents, given 2 million rupees (£21,000) by the government, set up the Nirbhaya Trust to help women who have experienced violence. “We want to help those girls who have no one,” Jyoti’s father says.

    The government, to quell the protest that followed her death, set up a three-member commission, headed by JS Verma, a former chief justice of India and human rights lawyer. It received 80,000 responses and delivered a landmark 630-page report in 29 days, calling for the law concerning sexual violence to be modernised, removing terms such as “intent to outrage her modesty”.

    New legislation failed to fulfil many of the report’s recommendations. Since then, the number of reported rapes has increased hugely, as more women come forward.

    The juvenile is serving three years. Two of the convicted men are appealing against their sentence, a process that could take years. The judge said they should hang because “this is the rarest of cases”.

    Except that it isn’t. It is one of many.

    Just over two years after Jyoti’s rape, a woman was raped by four men, beaten, her eyes gouged out.

    Jyoti’s father, a man of shining integrity, says of his daughter: “In death, she lit such a torch … whatever darkness there is in this world should be dispelled by this light.”


    [Courtesy: The Guardian.]
     

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