Last night I could not sleep properly. I was scared of fire, screaming and pain. In the morning when I came out of my half-sleep, I realized the effect of watching India’s Daughter by Leslee Udwin. It is disturbing. I don’t know how long the narrative of the documentary will haunt me. This was needed.
We need to be disturbed to know the crude reality of our existence seen in various forms. The disturbance should come every other day because every day somewhere unspeakable and brutality happens on this planet. We all should know these horrifying details: the monstrous nature of male-being and the complexities in which these are shaped. The sad part is that our proud government wants to put a curtain over it by banning the documentary. No wonder that the ideology of the Sangh Parivar and the BJP does not make allowance for the freedom to discuss sex and sexuality on an open platform.
We all need to watch this documentary. When I say all, I mean every citizen of various countries of the world, especially India. We should broadcast it in public places, cinemas, everywhere. Let everybody feel bad. This feel-bad is necessary to see our nature, our monster inside. The documentary shows how we try to defend our monstrous nature with the grab of male-female distinctions, and comparisons. It also traces the origin of the violence which comes from a fragmented socio-economic structure. Mukesh Singh one of the convicts says in the documentary: “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,” We need to think of this remark closely.
Every day in our family we hear our parents telling their daughters: “You should not fight back” because you are a girl. The girl of a family is never welcome before the boy of the family. And we inscribe it as India’s tradition. In spite of looking at ourselves as men, we pass judgments as ML Sharma, the lawyer in the documentary says: “In our society we don’t allow girls to go in the evening around 7:30 or 8:30 pm” As an excuse to defend the barbaric male-nature he says, “They are under imagination of filmy culture.” The questions that we should ask ourselves are these: whose culture is this? Who is nurturing this culture? Banning the documentary, the government of India is banking upon an idea of culture; I should say banking on the horrible culture of exclusion. It is an act of violence. The Indian government should acknowledge the fact that there is a serious problem in our culture, and we need to rethink. As Charlotte Bunch says: “Sexual, racial, gender violence and other forms of discrimination and violence in a culture cannot be eliminated without changing culture.”
The documentary is an eye opener not only to the barbaric narrative of the incident. But it goes deep into the crude reality of society. Mr Mukesh says, “The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, ‘Leave her, she won’t tell anyone.’ Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.” This is a very hard truth to digest but this is a fact that happens and will happen if we do not look in to the matter as a cultural fact.
We seriously need to think of what we define as our tradition and culture and see women just as an object of pleasure and restriction. Mr. Mukesh is the product of this society not very different so as Mr. Sharma who says, “You are talking about man and woman as friends. Sorry, that doesn’t have any place in our society. We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman.” I fail to find any distinction between the two men and their ideologies. Actually what Mr. Mukesh is saying echoes the voice of many of us. Mr. Mukesh is the product of our bourgeon-realism, alienated, afraid and someone who is not given the option to know the distinction between good and evil. That is probably visible when 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,” He is also taught: YOU CANNOT FIGHT BACK THE INDISCRIMITATION AND OPPRESSION YOU ARE IN.
I am not sure how in a socio-economically fragmented society like India one is going to do justice when there is a discrimination at every level. What justice has been done to the victims of the Gujrat riots when the state itself is participant in the violence. Mr. Mukesh and his friends are a replica of this larger group and crises. Morality and rationality cannot be expected naturally. It has to come through education and social equality. If we closely look at most of the rape accused, they are from lower strata of society. Why? That needs to answered.
When an incident happens and comes into the open we ask for capital punishment. My question is: is that a solution to the problem? If we want any punishment, we should seek punishment for capital itself. Because it is the capital/state that creates the bourgeois-realty built on discriminating and humiliating the one who has nothing. They are the subject of our ignorance and pitying-sympathy! They always live in fear, fear of hunger, fear of pain and also fear of pleasure.
I am not taking the side of criminality but I sometimes wonder why I am not a criminal. Then I see that I am lucky to study in a reputed university in India, My professors offer me good food, I know some good people from whom I learn good ideas, theory, philosophy and literature. Then I look back to the convicted criminals and I ask do they get all those things that prevent me from looking at the crime as a possibility? Rape is a social problem and social solution needs to be found.
Isn’t the gruesome act a result of the frustration by those are cast off? Stuart Hampshire rightly says: “In the silent thought of any individual, rationality is best characterized as a two-sided reflection. When the evidence is to be surveyed and evaluated, the objects of reflection are the subject’s own conflicting desires and feelings . . .” He further says that “our desires, sentiments, attitudes, and intentions normally compose an unstable and confused scene in our minds, with all the ambivalences and contradictions that the story of Leontius illustrates.” India has a history of banning: we all know what has happened to M.F. Hussain, Salman Rushdie. Alas! India is neither growing nor developing!
Mir Islam is a writer from Hyderabad, India. He is currently a research scholar at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India.