I broke three laws today. First, downloading Leslee Udwin’s, India’s daughter, banned by India’s parliamentary affairs minister, M Venkaiah Naidu. Second, downloading it in a country that bans video downloads and third, sharing a banned movie with my colleagues at work.
After watching the movie, I went through some facebook posts and read articles by Kavita Krishnan and Annalisa Merelli. I felt both perplexed as well as intimidated by the rigidity and diversity of opinions especially of those who have never had the opportunity to spend at least some amount of time in poverty or those who were never in or grew out of the normalcy of Indian culture. But first, let’s start with my own view about the movie.
Leslee has done a remarkable job in putting the movie together. I can’t even imagine what she must have gone through in getting those interviews. The documentary does touch upon some of the fundamental challenges that the Indian society has inherited through generations (which I will come later to). Leila Seth and Amod Kanth do, in fact, talk about why such heinous crimes happen. The movie consistently focuses on how the government has suppressed the civic society movements and hasn’t brought the victim and family to justice. However, the movie doesn’t talk about the situations that lead to the making of Mukesh Singh.
The movie presents three categories of people. In the first category fall Mukesh Singh and those two lawyers. In the other category fall Leila Seth, NGO founder, Psychologists etc. and in the third category fall the relatives of the victim and the rapists. The movie seems to sum the whole India up into those three categories. It seems to suggest that the first category is the result of India’s inability to take strict/quick action against wrongdoers/wrong-thinkers. The second category is the result of modern education inherited through the western world. The third category is the poor family whose sufferings needs to be brought on to the international map.
In reality, most of India doesn’t fall into any of those categories and not least in first two. We Indians are caring and tolerant people with a strong sense of belonging to close groups. Most of the fathers would not burn their daughters if she stays out late at night. Most of the men would not rape a woman to teach her a lesson. Most of the people do not receive right education to make gender neutral choices. Most of the men leave for work in the morning, come back home in the evening while a majority of women take care of the house. We eat our bread and salt and sleep peacefully.
So, if most of the men do not belong to the first category then where do rapists come from? They come from every corner of the society – rich, poor, educated, illiterate, north, south. It starts from the moment a boy is born, from the moment he is not allowed to do menial household chores. Every day as a boy grows, he is allowed to come back late and as a girl grows, she is expected to come back home earlier. Such everyday incidences, however small they may appear, create an environment where girls assume a meek and lowlife role and boys assume a dominant role. Such environment is the breeding ground for rapists. This is the story of almost every household in India (and everywhere around the world). The movie fails to focus much on this fundamental problem in the society.
Rapists don’t come from hell. They are born and bred in the same society. The convicted Juvenile lived in abject poverty for 11 years. He was regularly abused by people around him. He left his house when he was 11. He washed used plates for five years in a roadside food stall. He turning into a rapist is the collective failure (or effort) of the human society, which couldn’t provide even the most fundamental human right to education and food. Now the society demands that he be hanged. Who is the real rapist? Those corrupt politicians? Those lazy teachers? or those who chose to evade tax? This is the part that the movie fails to address altogether.
I firmly believe that the civic society engagement is an extremely powerful tool and if not done right, can turn even a stable country like India into a complete anarchy for the good of no one. May we have enough wisdom to be less opinionated and more introspective during such difficult times.