This Article is From Mar 05, 2015

"India's Daughter" - A Young Woman's Open Letter to the Prime Minister

(Shruti Verma Singh is Head - Strategy and Brand, NDTV Prime)

This letter is in response to the ban in India on the documentary "India's Daughter" made by Leslee Udwin, who is herself a victim of rape. This is also a response to Arnab Goswami who described the planned screening of the film on NDTV as "Voyeurism and not Journalism." At the time of writing this, the BBC has decided to go ahead and screen the film. Among the people interviewed in the film is one of the six rapists responsible for the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old on December 16, 2012. They had each raped the woman before viciously and brutally assaulting her with an iron rod.

"But the truth won't go away. It will keep surfacing until it is recognized. Truth will outlast any campaigns mounted against it, no matter how mighty, clever, or long. It is invincible. It's only a matter of which generation is willing to face it and, in so doing, protect future generations ..."
- Chrystine Oksana, Safe Passage to Healing

Dear Prime Minister:

Without understanding the mindset of the perpetrator and what made them do what they did, you can never find a solution. Leslee Udwin's film shows an unrepentant rapist unabashedly recounting how and why he did what he did simply because "everyone does it".

This was not rape - it was a violent and barbaric act that also cost an innocent girl her life! Her only fault? She happened to be a girl in India and that she was out with a friend at night! There are numerous others like Nirbhaya who are forced to confront this fear every single day.

Any society should sit up and do some serious introspection about why incidents like these continue to take place every day and why we as a system are unable to do anything about it. We come out in hordes to support rape victims, blame the system and eventually forget, while these psychopaths continue to walk the streets in search of another prey.

Young women are stalked, kidnapped, raped in cars, buses, trains, picked up from the streets of cosmopolitan cities, taken advantage of by cab drivers, molested by strangers, some of them thrown out from moving vehicles and some broken even in the safety of their own homes.  

The film "India's Daughter" is an unpleasant reminder of this reality. We don't like it. What the rapist says is disturbing and undeniably shocks us, urging us to face that one truth - that there are many others like him who continue to live in our midst and till they remain, our women are not safe.

However, banning the film or bringing up questions as to how the film-maker was allowed to interview the rapist etc takes away from the issue that rape (and they seem to be getting even more barbaric as time goes by) is a stark reality in India that needs to be confronted.

It's important also to consider that perhaps the film-maker, herself a rape victim , may not have been seeking to provide a platform for rapists, but instead seeking to unearth answers that may have been bothering her all these years. Couldn't that be a possibility?

Now the issue of Arnab Goswami labelling the screening of the film on NDTV and BBC as "Voyeurism and not Journalism."

Voyeurism, according to the dictionary, is the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other actions usually considered to be of a private nature.

I accept that I may not be as aggressive or as intelligent as Mr Goswami, but I do know, even in my limited understanding, that this brutal rape can never be of any sexual interest to any sane journalist. In fact the film is the hardest-hitting truth about an event and mindset that needs to be told the way it is. Maybe as a man, it may not turn Mr Goswami's insides, but incidents like these chill every woman I know and every parent with a daughter.  

Moreover , a channel that has been at the forefront of fighting for justice - be it the Jessica Lal case, the Nirbhaya case and even the recent Uber rape case - does not need to run this film to garner TRPs! If that was what it had in mind, wouldn't it be easier for the channel to run a daily crime show instead - which it chose to do away with for ethical reasons?

So Mr Prime Minister - Ban the film if you must. But more importantly, Ban Rape! Ban Rapists! Please find a way to ban the mindset of men like Mukesh featured in the documentary, who think it's perfectly normal to rape. Do something that allows victims to get justice and ban the system that allows perpetrators to get away. Enable our girls to feel safe by ensuring that such incidents are prevented in future. The film is a stark reminder that we are nowhere close to resolving anything - whether it's the mindset or the system.

Banning the film on TV (especially after the rapist's pictures and quotes are splashed across Print and Digital Media, and now screened on a foreign channel) only reflects our own limited intellect and is yet another instance of our sheer foolishness that, despite repeated reminders of the reality of rape in India, we seem to have learnt nothing at all.

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