By Debayan Roy, Legal Practitioner, Law Graduate (AKK New Law Academy- 2009-2014).
As the ‘nukkad natak’ of government officials continued, Leslee Udwin’s riveting tale of a girl shredded into pieces of mortified horror received a standing ovation at New York. Is it just the West who celebrates every form of creativity throttled within India or is it our common human conscience which silently celebrates too? The ludicrous façade of reasons exemplarily highlighted by our ‘Security Guards’ to prohibit the screening of the documentary certainly calls for a debate. The ‘December Gang Rape’ was as much as an important event in Indian History compared to the breakthrough in the Indo-US Nuclear Deal.
This entire controversy led me like million others, to access torrent and watch the documentary. The only part which led to the ban was the accused being interviewed. It made me think as to what was the purpose of the documentary. Was it to interfere with the judicial process? Or to let people form an opinion on Women’s Modesty and its perceived levels? If it was none of the above, then how could a viewer realize the pain being inflicted on an innocent soul without a glimpse of the evil? Every Indian household has some or the other moral tale to share with children. Whether it is the Mahabharata or Ramayana, the triumph of good over evil is an immortal lesson. Thus perhaps the reason was something else. The constant atmosphere of moral policing which has engulfed our nation and the authorities is glaring in this act as well. The Nirbhaya episode somewhere down the line brings across the unspoken apathy of our Indian cultural shackles. It is a reminder of the boiling gender prejudices prevalent across societal hierarchies, and this chapter is yet again unfurled by the BBC Documentary, which perhaps the new government cannot risk diverting the attention too.
Amidst such political overtones to the entire matter, governments attempt to avoid any public ‘law and order’ situation remains just as a myth. Schemes like ‘Aapki Beti Humaari Beti’, ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ certainly has noble intentions behind it, but if these very girls are not allowed to watch their possible predators, then are we not responsible when they cannot fight back the atrocities of life. A woman in India is not always a girl studying in St. Stephens or travelling behind the dark glasses of a luxury sedan. She is often left to attend natures call amidst the dark shrubs, or married off at an age where she could be well playing hide and seek. If these very girls are made to watch the documentary and feel the pain, then the realisation of self-respect would be immensely gratifying.
When Perumal Murugan announced his own obituary, the entire foundation of free speech and expression was left shaken. But did the government officials make any attempt to pacify the author? Of course not, India’s cultural identity was at stake. When he drew inspiration from ancient stories to pen down a moving tale of a woman who establishes sexual relationship with another man for a child, the entire narrative vaguely turns vulgar. Suddenly, the author is accused of shaking the pedestal of virtue where the community worships its women members. The severity of the accusations with blatant intent of vote bank politics has not gone unnoticed, but still silence prevails.
This incidence has an inextricable relevance to the documentary ban episode. Both the events dramatize the false notion of women empowerment. If our country is heavily concerned with the image of women not being denigrated, then the measures to curb the same, is certainly misplaced. Right from terming ‘Suzette Jordan’s” Rape as a made-up episode to objectifying a women in the recent IAS officers death mystery, the officials certainly use women for its own political gains beautifully. The finesse with which the arguments are loathed onto garb this vicious desire could never arouse suspicion in the mind of civilians.
It is perhaps time, for us to realize the mediocrity of such agendas. For us to lose our way amidst so many news items is nothing but normal. Whenever the question of the image of a woman arises, the common public turns a blind eye towards the probable political manipulations at play on part of the officials. How long are we to allow women as dancing puppets? The ‘Nukkad Natak’ shall end someday, but what it would leave behind is an ocean of confused audience, some at war with atavistic notion of gender hypocrisy and some at peace with them. In the meanwhile what needs to be done is to stop this play. To realize, that it is the choice an individual that matters the most. Curbing something before being disseminated only leads to curiosity and mayhem, and this is being done with élan, not just by censorship of rights, but also evil orchestration of gender sensitivities.