Documentary film ‘India’s Daughter’ and its ban by the Indian government has polarised opinion.
India’s Daughter is an hour-long documentary film produced by British director Leslee Udwin of ‘East is East’ fame and is part of BBC Four’s Storyville series. The film chronicles the 16 December 2012 Nirbhaya rape case and was scheduled to release in UK and India on March 8. Pre-release clips of the film sparked debate, both for and against the film on various grounds. The Indian government has banned the film’s telecast and release in India. BBC released it on YouTube on March 5, but the film has subsequently been taken down.
The controversy around the film began after news reports were published that quoted excerpts of Mukesh Singh’s interview (one of the six convicted for rape and murder) as part of the pre-launch promotion for the film that was to be telecast on NDTV.
Udwin’s film does not reveal any facts that the media has not already reported on the case. The 60 minute film is a collection of voices that played a key role in the events after the horror of the night of December 16. But, for the first time we get to see and hear Mukesh Singh, one of the six convicted and sentenced to death for the crime. His narration of the events is marked by a lack of remorse and emotion. The film has stirred a controversy in India on many grounds. While some believe that it insults the memory of the victim and gives the offender a platform, others have a problem with the view of Indian society that it puts out to the world and still others are concerned about the legal implications of matter. Mukesh Singh has appealed the death sentence awarded by the Delhi High Court.
The film showcases the entire range of voices involved in this tragic sequence of events. Asha and Badri Singh, the victim’s parents are heard saying that they want their daughter’s name revealed and find it puzzling that the case is referred to by other names – Nirbhaya being the main one.
Retired Judge Leila Seth, Member of the Justice Verma Commission, which was constituted to recommend amendments to Criminal Law in the aftermath of December rape case protests, is also interviewed. She outlines the similar deprivation-level backgrounds that the six accused came from and the need for changing attitudes towards women, at the grassroots. Sandeep Goyal, the Tihar jail psychiatrist reveals that the jail houses serial rapists who have admitted to raping over 200 women. Raj Kumar, the patrol-man who found the two victims, details the state he found them in. Rashmi Ahuja, the gynaecologist at Safdarjung Hospital describes Jyoti’s wounds. Pramod Kushwa, the Additional Deputy Commissioner Delhi Police details how the perpetrators were caught and the chargesheet was filed within 17 days and goes on to state that New Delhi is a safe city for women.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has written to YouTube and social media platforms not to upload, transmit or broadcast the documentary as it is “very sensitive” in nature but links to various uploads of the film on YouTube have been viewed and downloaded and will have to be taken down individually. The government has also served the BBC with a legal notice for failing to secure approval for the commercial use of the documentary as it was telecast in London late evening on March 5.
Here is the Union Home Minister’s Statement on BBC Four’s Storyville in Rajya Sabha:
“A No Objection Certificate (NOC) to shoot the documentary featuring interview of convicted inmates in Tihar jail of cases related to atrocities against women was given by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 24 July, 2013 and thereafter the permissions were given by the jail authorities to shoot the documentary to Ms. Leslee Udwin and Ms. Anjali Bhushan with the following conditions:-
(i) Prior approval of jail authorities is to be taken for publishing the research paper or for releasing the documentary film which is being made for purely social purposes without any commercial interest as conveyed.
(ii) To interview only such convicted prisoners who give written consent.
(iii) The complete unedited footage of shoot in the Tihar Jail premises will be shown to the jail authorities to ensure there is no breach of Prison security.
This documentary, inter alia, features interview of one of the accused of the Nirbhaya case. It came to the notice of the jail authorities that the permission conditions have been violated and hence a legal notice was issued to them on 7th April, 2014 to return the unedited footage within 15 days and also not to show the film as it violates the permission conditions.
Subsequently, the documentary film was shown to the jail authorities where it was noticed that the documentary film depicts the comments of the convict which are highly derogatory and are an affront to the dignity of women. It was also noticed that the film shown was the edited version and not the unedited as per permission conditions. Hence, they were requested to provide full copy of the unedited film shootout for further review by the authorities and that they were asked not to release/screen the documentary till it is approved by the authorities.
Now, it has come to notice that on 8 March, 2015, BBC Four is going to telecast this documentary film. The Government has taken necessary legal action and obtained a restraining order from the court disseminating the contents of the film.
Our Government condemns the incident of 16th December, 2012 in the strongest possible terms and will not allow any attempt by any individual, group or organization to leverage such unfortunate incidents for commercial benefit. The respect and dignity of women constitute a core value of our culture and tradition. Our Government remains fully committed to ensuring safety and dignity of women.”
Timeline of events since 16 December 2012
December 16, 2012
A paramedic student was brutally gangraped and her male friend assaulted by six men in a private bus in New Delhi. She and her friend were then thrown out of the bus.
December 18-21, 2012
Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and a juvenile were arrested.
December 22, 2012
The sixth accused, Akshay Thakur was arrested in Aurangabad district of Bihar.
December 23, 2012
Protests seen across India. Youth defy prohibitory orders take to streets against the incident.
December 29, 2012
Victim succumbs to injuries and other medical conditions in Singapore where the Indian government had shifted her for treatment
January 2, 2013
CJI Altamas Kabir inaugurates fast track court (FTC) for speedy trial in the case.
March 11, 2013
Ram Singh, the main accused, commits suicide in Tihar jail.
March 22, 2013
Delhi HC allows national media to report FTC proceedings.
August 31, 2013
The Juvenile Justice Board convicts the minor for gangrape and murder and awards a three year term at a probation home.
September 10, 2013
The four adult defendants found guilty of rape, murder, unnatural offences and destruction of evidence.
September 13, 2013
The four men were sentenced to death by hanging. Judge Yogesh Khanna rejected pleas for a lesser sentence saying the case has “shocked the collective conscience of India”, and that “courts cannot turn a blind eye to such crimes”.
March 3, 2014
The Delhi High Court found all the defendants guilty of rape, murder, unnatural offences and destruction of evidence. With the verdict, the High Court confirmed death sentence for all four men convicted in September 2013.
March 15, 2014
The Supreme Court of India stayed the execution of two of the four convicts, Mukesh Singh and Pawan Gupta to allow them to make their appeal against their conviction on March 31. This was further extended by the court to the second week of July.
June 2, 2014
The two other convicts, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur also asked the Supreme Court to stay their execution to allow them to make an appeal of their convictions. On July 14, their execution was also stayed by Supreme Court.
As of March 2015, two years following the attack, the case is pending with the Supreme Court.