Ban on Nirbhaya documentary - Time to set our priorities right

Anisa Fathima
Resident Editor

Mar 6:
Much has been said about the ban on Leslee Udwin's documentary 'India's Daughter' on the Nirbhaya gang-rape case of December 16, 2012 in Delhi. The BBC has already aired the documentary before the Indian government could stop it, and the entire one-hour video went viral soon after, and I am glad that if not the TV audience, at least some people out there could watch it, I being one of them.

What the whole controversy screams out is this simple fact - that we have got our priorities all wrong. It is a classic case of shooting the messenger instead of the source. While convict Mukesh lives on and makes bizarre statements, our focus is on how he could be allowed to talk on the camera at all, and not on how he could be allowed to live.

Why is the Indian government and a section of the populace so afraid of the documentary? The Delhi police stated that the documentary should be stopped because the convict makes derogatory remarks that insult the modesty of women. Really?? When women of this country have been tolerating crimes like rape and idiotic comments by all and sundry, what harm can a video do to their dignity? Going by comments on social media, it is quite apprarent that most women want this documentary to be aired. Women of this country are not so weak that they would let a pyschopath's comments harm their dignity. The convict's remarks are something that our ears are already used to. Moreover, let women, and not men, decide what is derogatory to them.

The other argument the Delhi police put forth is that it would lead to law and order problem. It may, and it probably should. When Nirbhaya was battling for life in hospital, thousands and thousands of young people descended on the streets and forced the government to wake up and amend laws. The Delhi police fear that such a situation would arise again, but frankly, if it is going to make any valuable difference and bring justice to Nirbhaya and her parents, law and order problem is a small price to pay for it. Dear Delhi police, when you claim to have worked so efficiently to nail the culprits, why don't you take a little help from the citizens to make sure your efforts are rewarded in the right manner?

Ours has been a patriarchal society, and never in recent times has this fact stood out so prominently than in this case. The rapist's mentality is a shame to our society, a section of which has actually nurtured it. The entire point of the documentary is simply this - our mindset needs to change, and the banning of the documentary has only stressed this point further. From what I have seen of the documentary, it does not attempt to usurp the patriarchal system, but only show where it has gone wrong. The video goes deep into the sociological factors that made the convicts what they are, but in no way justifies their brutality. When Mukesh's distraught mother says she had hoped to depend on her son in her old age, but instead had to see him hang, it made me think of the gross injustice of gender divide - on the one hand there was Nirbhaya, the daughter who had big dreams of becoming a doctor and starting her own hospital, and on the other hand was Mukesh, the shameless son who had given nothing but agony to his parents. Still, they are both born and brought up in a society that considers male the superior being.

However, instead of facing the shortcomings in our society and taking proactive measures to rectify them, we go on a damage-control mode and make every effort to ban the documentary because it makes us feel uncomfortable. Is banning the documentary a solution at all? No, first, because in this era of porous technology, the documentary has already found its way to the mass online users. Secondly, while we claim that we do not need foreign media to show us our faults, that we already know them well enough, why aren't we doing anything concrete (beyond law amendment on rape) to correct the wrong - why is gender inequality still persisting and why are monsters like Mukesh still alive? For all we know, we will stop at banning the video without taking an progressive step, and wake up again only the next time someone comes along to point fingers at our mess.

Of course, the documentary is not going to change things overnight. Let's not pretend that it is a panacea for all our ills. It isn't. But it is a starting point from where we can begin to address issues that need our attention, and start dialogues and debates on how we can go about this mission. If we are not willing to take the first step forward, there's no point hoping for things to change.

Let's consider why the documentary was banned. The government gave a whole list of violations that the filmmaker had committed in the process of making the video. While that may be true, should it invite a ban? The procedures may have been in violation, but did anyone watch the content before banning it? If procedure was all that was to it, why not show the video and take action against those who violated the terms and conditions? It's no rocket science to figure out - we do not want the world to see the dominant Indian male mentality or the underbelly of Indian society, and the best way to ban anything that disturbs us is to simply trap it in a rigmarole of legal procedures.

That's not all. Even a section of the media went on verbal rampage justifying the ban. Arnab Goswami of Times Now made vociferous claims that the documentary 'graphically describes' the brutal rape, and that both the interviewer and the convict derived 'voyeuristic pleasure' out of it. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The so-called graphical details are much less than what was described in the media in the days following the rape, and nothing we did not already know about. When the doctor lists out the wounds, she does it in a matter-of-fact manner without any sensationalising.

There has also been this argument that the documentary and Mukesh's remarks are an insult to Nirbhaya. #InsultoNirbhaya has been trending on Twitter for the past few days. But no, that is not how I see it. It is not an insult to Nirbhaya, far from it, this documentary is a tribute to her. It portrays the image of a young, independent, ambitious girl who wanted to live a decent life and make her parents proud. It is the story of a girl who had big dreams, and was well on her way to achieve them through sheer hard work. And the beasts on that bus had absolutely no right to snatch those dreams away from her.

There there is the xenophobic reaction justifying the ban. Why should the fact that a foreign media filmed a documentary on a problem plaguing our society prick us so much? It is seen by some as part of a 'conspiracy' by the western media to undermine India and show it in a poor light time and again. My point is, why do we need to care about how the western media perceives us? Aren't we capable enough to rely on our strengths and show to the world that while India has its share of problems just as any other country, we are also willing to accept and work on them? Facing our problems rather than living in a state of denial will do us much good. We are forever worried about what other people think about us, whether in everyday life or in this case, the Nirbhaya documentary. And for those who cry 'colonial', it's time to change that mindset. The British of today are barely a speck of what they were in the colonial era, and to paint everything they do with the colonial brush is naive. We need to be more open-minded.

The film portrays a stark reality that we are well aware of, but we want to keep our eyes tightly shut just because a foreigner is trying to open them. Of course, it would have been far better if our own media had done what the BBC did. And of course, brutal crimes happen across the world and surely on Udwin's own homeland too. But such arguments about 'why India' are a mere distraction from the real issue at hand. Udwin herself says in an interview to The Hindustan Times: "No other country has seen protests in such unprecedented numbers. Had this happened in any other country I would have gone there... It was not the incident that motivated me. If this had happened anywhere else and such a groundswell of people had braved such unfriendly conditions to fight for the rights of women I would have gone there. I would have gone wherever that had happened. It was that which compelled... not impelled.... compelled me to come here."

But what's most disgusting in the entire issue is the mindset of the defense lawyers. Advocate M L Sharma says a woman is akin to a 'flower' which, when thrown in the gutter would be spoiled, or 'diamond' which needs to be tightly held. For too long women have been objectified in society and it is from here that such remarks stem. The same lawyer also says men are like thorns - 'tough and strong', but he forgets that the thorn is there to protect the flower from anyone who touches it, and not cause harm to the flower itself. He proudly declares 'ours is the best culture', and in the same breath adds, 'woman has no space in our culture'. The other lawyer is worse - A P Singh being an educated man says he has no qualms about setting his own daughter on fire if she breaks moral boundaries. The threat to society from such lawyers is far greater, for it directly affects the judicial system and makes the process of obtaining justice even more complex, prolonged and discouraging. In fact, rather than raising a hue and cry over Mukesh's remarks, our focus should have been on the statements by his lawyers. Just compare - what is it that we expect from a rape convict, and what do we expect from an educated lawyer - an insane remark versus an informed argument - but no, both, unfortunately display the same crooked mentality.

We need to take serious note of where our priorities lie. We need to address the mindset and sociological factors that mould people like Mukesh and his accomplices. We need to rise above our fears of what the world thinks of us and address our problems earnestly. And most importantly, we need to ensure justice for Nirbhaya.

If Nirbhaya were alive, would she allow the documentary to be telecast? I believe she would, for she was a brave woman who stood up to her persecutors, just as we need to stand up to the problems that persecute us as a society.


Top Stories

Comment on this article

  • William Rodrigues, Milagres, Mangalore

    Wed, Mar 11 2015

    Congratulations. This article needs accolades. The writer has plenty of "grey matter". A lot needs to be changed in our society. First mind set and second equal respect for humanity.

    DisAgree Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ashwin, SuratKal

    Wed, Mar 11 2015

    Anisa Fatima, you must be joking when you said But what's most disgusting in the entire issue is the mindset of the defense lawyers""" How did you know that the so educated Lawyer said those words or even about his opinion about women. They would be saint if not for this BBC documentary. That's the whole point, if media is not there all our politicians are saints.

    DisAgree Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • SB, Kolkata

    Wed, Mar 11 2015

    Ours is a country where 24 hours you can see "Chikni Chameli" and the like on TV as entertainment which is tantalizing the economically deprived men but you can't show a film which shows the brutal truth of crimes against women and what happens to men who commit them. I would sound cynical but ours is now a society beyond repair.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • Diwakar Naik, Mangalore

    Sat, Mar 07 2015

    Ban on film shows failure of our government to protect our sisters and women's. It shows negligence towards women in male dominated society.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • jusman, mangalore

    Sat, Mar 07 2015

    Why government wants ban the documentmentary , it's a million dollars question!? Up mp Bihar hariyana and Rajasthan voted them to power, that's y they don't want to disclose mindset of the people who voted them to power!

    DisAgree [2] Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • Langoolacharya., Belman/Washington,DC.

    Sat, Mar 07 2015


    I read editorials of at least half a dozen newspapers around the world ...including India,UK, Pakistan,Middle East and US...I can say this editorial of Daijiworld is at par with best of them,,, in its substance and wordings if not better than them...

    I am proud that an Indian internet portal could write such an editorial...appreciate it.



    DisAgree [4] Agree [16] Reply Report Abuse

  • Langoolacharya., Belman/Washington,DC.

    Sat, Mar 07 2015

    Vellano1, Mumbai,

    Banning anything is not a permanent solution for any problem, like a pain killer it might give some relief for some time.

    OK this is a court order, so we should respect it, right?

    Who went to court asking for this Ban?? Central Government, right???

    Emergency was also upheld in 1975,,, and court upheld it and denied fundamental rights of thousands of people including your beloved Vajpayee and Advani....what say you about it???

    I think no sensible person can defend the ban,,, see this documentary first and lets debate here in this forum...

    Following I found after watching this documentary....

    1.I felt very bad about the parents of victim...and felt even though their daughter cannot be brought least we need to compensate them monetarily as much as possible so they could live a decent life...

    2.I also felt bad for parents of all the accused ,,, I feel all of them are suffering for no fault of theirs but their children's fault.

    3.I felt punishment appropriate for this crime except minor,,, I feel 5 years too less for what he did,,, I think he is responsible for death of the victim for inserting steel rod inside victims body and destroying her internal organs, thus causing the death of the victim.

    4.I felt if anybody deserve death sentence here it should be minor, but our laws don't allow it because he was 17.5 years old during the crime.

    5.I feel both big mouthed Defense lawyers are morons...and need to be educated in law and how to speak.

    6.I think only reason for banning this documentary is defense counsels saying 250 MP's have similar background,,, they are not punished but their clients are punished because they are poor,,, which I agree absolutely.

    Why do you think BBC should listen to a Delhi Magistrate Court judgement? They wont listen to their own PM forget Delhi Court and Rajnath Singh...


    DisAgree [1] Agree [14] Reply Report Abuse

  • @Princy, Mangalore

    Sat, Mar 07 2015

    Hi ..
    I watched the documentary .. My blood was boiling watching that .. I am sure all the human who respects a woman will fell the same .. .. Most of Indians need a change of mind set .. :(

    DisAgree [1] Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • vivek, Hirebile/ Abu Dhabi

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    today Government asked to Ban Documentary...tomorrow who knows!!..they may ask to BAN reporting Rape...that's why...let Media do it's work ..

    DisAgree [1] Agree [22] Reply Report Abuse

  • vivek, Hirebile/ Abu Dhabi

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    for me!!.. by reading local news paper Available here ABROAD...i always Find negative Image about India....Banning the content will make NO DIFFERENCE.... I always believe that ...''MEDIA should be TRANSPARENT''..

    DisAgree [2] Agree [16] Reply Report Abuse

  • Martina, Belmond-USA

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    I agree with you Dsouza
    This Doucmentry BBC should show in India Government of India make Tuff Law life in Imprisonment or Death penalty.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • ibrahim, sharjah

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    I watched the documentary more then this video Indian news channels have exposed India s law n full 24 hours of day u can see the same news v r fed up think wht happens to the family of victim Allah save all women in the world.We in our society tel girls not come late but now boys also s should follow it n questioned

    DisAgree [4] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Chidananda Murthy, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    Haste at which BBC advanced the released exposed its intent. If the intent was to portray a rape incident that created outrage in India, there are many ways to do within the ambit of legal and ethical practices in journalism. Not sure what you saw in the documentary. Firstly, it is a fact that the producer broke Indian law of naming the victim and BBC is equally culpable in publishing it without editing it out. Secondly, the producer breached the understanding under which allowances were made to interview the rapist under guise of research and not obtaining prior permission from required authorities prior to publishing it. Hence, intent of BBC is a suspect whatever good you see in this video.

    In addition, you have contradicted yourself in arguing ISIS being different than rapist. You have not taken a stand whether BBC should publish an interview with ISIS militant and publish it in UK.
    In my view, a rapist is far more heinous than a ISIS militant. My point was BBC would not dare to publish an interview in UK, even if they manage to interview one.
    None of these changes the truth. No one is afraid of discussing the societal problem if the intent is to do so. But if the intent is to exploit the 'outrage' or create one for self serving commercial interests, this needs to be arrested. A publishing house like BBC has significant power in influencing thoughts and actions of people and the only thing that prevent abuse of this power is government and court action. That is what government has done. Would daijiworld publish an interview with a child abuser or a terrorist and publish how they did it with graphic details ? Take a stand lady - shed the fake outrage on government doing the right thing.

    DisAgree [15] Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • Deepa, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    Actually, the haste with which BBC showed the documentary suggests that it did not want an important issue like this be silenced because of what Indian govt thought of it. If it wanted it for commercial interests, it would have first generated enough publicity about it in the UK and have some build-up to the show so that it gets max viewership and stick to its schedule. Rather it chose to show it four days in advance without much warning. It seems to be our natural instinct to doubt anyone who wants to do something good for the world. Even if you were right that commercial interests were involved, why should that take anything away from the efforts put in by the filmmaker to probe a social issue and the message that the video conveys? It was never planned as a commercial movie in the first place.

    You want me to take stand on ISIS issue? Fine here's my stand - BBC should do such an interview and publish it in the interest of public. But what does difference does that make in connection to Nirbhaya video? How you see the video depends on your perception - if you think its exploitation, you will see only the negative points, but if you watch it with an open mind, you will see its something that should have been done long ago.

    DisAgree [4] Agree [22] Reply Report Abuse

  • Chidananda Murthy, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    Ha Ha Ha..I can only think of Kannada saying "Adige biddaru Moogu mele". It was a well publicized marketing affair to launch this in 7 countries on Womens day (Mar 8). They advanced the date within 24hrs of GoI banning the video in India. Only a fool can believe that they advanced with good intentions when they have broken Indian law and journalistic principles to get this out in public domain. In any case, you can believe what you want to. You can also believe that this video is good for people of India and its image. My logic of ISIS is not to connect with Nirbhaya issue but to tell society would not approve glorifying a terrorist to understand their mindset and of those people who are passively supporting ideologies that foster terrorism. Good that you have taken a stand. But you will never see one because British society which is already reeling under pressure in their backyard won't approve of it and BBC would not dare. They will try their trick where they can get away with. Like India. It is just that they ran out of their as the government changed.

    DisAgree [13] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Zeitgeist, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 06 2015


    I completely disagree with what you said. How is BBC maligning a particular country? Just how? By showing facts. If you cant digest the fact bury your head in the sand. We need to figure out what are the root causes of rape. Just saying hang the culprit after committing crime is not the solution. And also just ask yourself how some persons who are accused of rape get elected.

    DisAgree [6] Agree [23] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    We should send our Karan Johar to the UK to make a rape DOCUMENTARY.
    Will thy allow Indians to ...

    DisAgree [7] Agree [13] Reply Report Abuse

  • jeetendra hegde, mumbai

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    What's the use of banning now?..the film is available in YOUTUBE and worldover india's reputation is disgraced..why indian government gave permission to do this?...DON't american and british prisons have the film maker says india is of sick society..for banning it.

    DisAgree [6] Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    We would be doing a favor to Nirbhaya if we send the accused to the gallows asp ...

    DisAgree [3] Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • francis lobo , Oman

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    I had an opportunity to view the "India's Daughter"and I fully endorse the views expressed by the author. The parents of Nirbhaya are telling the real story and what Mukesh said is a bit of it.We should really here the pain of Nirbhaya's parents and not that of Mukesh. But what was disgusting was not the words of Mukesh ,but that of the two defense lawyers, who are a curse to womanhood. Even one of the lawyers makes his argument, quoting his family.What type sick lawyers we have. The clip of the lawyers was may be for 1 minute.Imagine the author would have aired the full part of 1.5 hr interview of the lawyer!, which was recorded by the journalist.The politicians might have thought to ban it as one of the lawyers quotes that there are 250 rape cases againat politicians and asks them to make a proper law. What a tragedy?.

    Coming to media, it became a virtual fight between Timenow and NDTV. And Arnab showed his really self in this situation- to gain TRP's. In all the film is of 59 minutes .Hope someday we get an opportunity of the full footage of 16hr interview of Mukesh and other lawyers.Even for BJP it's tall leaders like Kiran Bedi and Poonam Mahajan expressed their views against banning of the film. May be government is worried that, tomorrow a foreign journalist goes to Gujarat and any other places in country and does a similar interview and telecast it. A situation similar to Babu Bajrangi or Jessica lal murder case. Convicted on basis of a sting operation.The interview of Mukesh will surely works like a evidence in the Supreme court whenever the case comes, as he himself profess the crime. Let the rapist get his punishment which is due, but not late.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [20] Reply Report Abuse

  • Dev, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    Arnab Goswami is a prejudiced moderator of all the channels.
    He just doesn't let anyone answer & clarify the doubts or questions fully.
    He states he has proof & evidence, but its not his job to condemn any one rather he should let the debaters put their point of view across. He should control the debate by giving equal time to all the participants, but he cuts them before they start answering.
    The Court has banned it in- "India only" & not all over world as thought by Vellano1.

    As Anisha Fathima says, the messenger is shot rather than the culprit.
    Justice delayed is Justice Denied. Supreme Court has not taken the case since 1 year, they are answerable for the inordinate delay to the public as well.

    Anisa Fathima deserves a pat on the back for beautiful & meticulous analysis.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [24] Reply Report Abuse

  • Joyson, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    I believe that people needs to hear all versions of a story. Indian politicians and media may try to sell the news which benefits them and the news which only people wants to hear wont be necessary. Common man needs to know what exactly happened from all possible resources.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • Chidananda Murthy, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    After reading the article I am convinced that the author has not really watched the documentary before writing this article. I am personally against banning anything because it amounts to curtailing the freedom of expression. But when freedom of expression is used as an excuse to malign a country, a community or a class of people, it is duty of the government to step in restore the balance. If this is allowed, anyone can publish a documentary glorifying a psyche of a particular group for religious killings because there is enough matter on record on why people kill in the name of religion. I am sure all the proponents of freedom of expression will take an exact opposite view of what they are taking today. This documentary does not help anyone in India to know more about the society than it already knows. It only helps to portray a wrong picture about the country and its people to the west for commercial reasons. Rape is a universal problem and not just of Indian society. Statistically more rape happen in the west than India contrary to the efforts of propagandists. Would author want to take a position on whether BBC would interview ISIS militants and air it in UK to educate people on how barbarically they kill people in the name of religion ? I know they won't. But should they Ms. Fathima - take a stand ?

    DisAgree [22] Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • Deepa, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    After reading your comment, I am convinced you have not watched the documentary. I have watched it, and I can say it does not glorify any psyche but probes it. Yes there's nothing new for the Indians in it, so what is the problem in facing the truth, no matter who has said it? It is as if we are ashamed that an outsider has come to know what we were desperately trying to hide, rather than being ashamed of the social problem itself. And what wrong picture are they portraying about India? The content is not fabricated - it is a reality which we need to face. Yes, rapes happen everywhere, but only in India did it turn out into a vast people's movement, and we need to take pride in that. The video glorifies the people's anger towards rape, and not the rapist himself.

    There is a whole lot of difference between interviewing an ISIS militant and a rapist. It is perhaps in this effort that journalists have become victims of ISIS. For sure, no journalist would be killed for interviewing a rapist.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • CDSouza, mangalore

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    This documentary by BBC deserves to be shown in every Indian tV channel and every Indian cinema theater. Instead of banning it the government must encourage high school/ college students to watch it. Times Now channel is the main culprit for making false accusations against this program. I hope everyone watches this at least once.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [31] Reply Report Abuse

  • cyril mathias, udupi

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    Good analyses,good arguments.congrats.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [21] Reply Report Abuse

  • jacintha, middle east

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    Lovely. This voices the feelings of most(all?) women.
    I have quote from Facebook:
    Prabhupada "It is not that the women do not like rape, they like it sometimes. They willingly, that is the psychology... "
    From Asaram Bapu "The victim daughter is as guilty as her rapists"
    From Babulal Gaur "It is sometimes right and sometimes wrong"
    From Kailash Vijayargia "If the limit of morality is crossed by woman, rape will happen".

    These are no ordinary people, they are spiritual and political leaders. We are talking of Mukesh's, his lawyers daring. What do we call these?

    So can we say it is an isolated or mentality of few? No.. there is more.

    It definitely is for the women now to tell the men in their homes, what is the right mentality towards woman.

    DisAgree [5] Agree [25] Reply Report Abuse

  • sbanary, Saudi Arabia / Mangalore

    Thu, Mar 12 2015

    Jacintha BBC have nothing to do with jyothi and her justice or justice of any Indian women..all these British channel is interested to prove Indians are rapist and all Indian is the country of by this way BBC spoiled Indian face by judging one case.. Where as that BBC reporter came from crime history.. High level of rape and.crime..but sad that you blindly support British..

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Vellano1, Mumbai

    Fri, Mar 06 2015

    Anisa ji, I am surprised, in the whole one page ediorial, I didnt see you mentioning anywhere "a delhi court has directed this documentary to be banned"! if court uphelds the ban, is it still right to air it? because, it will have lot of repercussions!... tomorrow, people will defy court orders and air their views! and today "INDIA" is taking the beating.. tomorrow it could be any single community!

    DisAgree [26] Agree [14] Reply Report Abuse

Leave a Comment

Title: Ban on Nirbhaya documentary - Time to set our priorities right

You have 2000 characters left.


Please write your correct name and email address. Kindly do not post any personal, abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful or similar comments. will not be responsible for any defamatory message posted under this article.

Please note that sending false messages to insult, defame, intimidate, mislead or deceive people or to intentionally cause public disorder is punishable under law. It is obligatory on Daijiworld to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments, to the authority concerned upon request.

Hence, sending offensive comments using daijiworld will be purely at your own risk, and in no way will be held responsible.