Mending our business
The Lessons that we need to learn
(You can call it very ungrammatical mutterings. I have not been able to edit this. I started to write an article of 800 words and ended up almost writing 2500 words. Please read and do tell me whatever you want to tell.)
The Documentary “India’s Daughters” has been all in news in India in this week except the documentary itself. The British filmmaker Leslee Udwin, who is also the director of 'India's Daughter’, made the documentary on 2012 Delhi Rape for the BBC and it was supposed to run on different countries’ different Channels on March 8. As the news of the proposed telecast hit the stand, the voices for its ban in India were also raised immediately. The Union Government of India lost no time to act “swiftly” by banning its telecast in India. There is an outrage from both sides – from the proponents who think the telecast should have been allowed as it exposes the filthy minds of Indian men and make the society accept and change its dirty behaviour towards women. The opponents are equally vocal and especially outraged by the platform given to the culprits to justify his acts, to depict how he performed the heinous act. One of the rapists, Mr. Mukesh Singh, is not in a mood of any remorse and blames entirely the girl for their crimes. He preaches without any shame how women should wear, walk, and behave. The documentary also throws the light on the thinking of defence counsel who holds no different views from that of the accused.
There are media and social heavy weights behind calling for bans and equally big names who are asking for freedom to telecast it in India. The India’s prominent Channel “Times Now” Editor in Chief led the discussion on its ban calling it a “voyeurism”. On his show, the Chairman of Women Commission of India agreed with his views but other social commentators like Shobhaa De has argued for revoking of ban on its telecast. She even goes on to say that it should be shown in every schools and children in India. That is little pompous of her as she is known in the media circles.
Due to this brouhaha over the documentary and the concerns and interests raised by many, the BBC changed its program schedule and showed the documentary on an earlier date. Thereafter, video sharing sites like youtube.com and dailymotion.com have been inundated with its upload. Though the Indian government has initiated actions to ban it on internet from being accessible in India, it is going to be a herculean task. By the time it secures its ban on internet, millions would have already watched it and formed their opinion.
I, for the record, have not watched it and do not intend to watch any time in the future. I am among those who have been outraged by the platform given to a rapist to justify its acts. If it was the case where the accused expresses his concerns on denial of fair trial, then, the stage given to a rapist would have been justified. However, that is not the case before us. Though I am outraged by the documentary, I will not argue for its ban in toto. Actually, when the government secured the ban on the documentary, no one had chance to see it and decide what the documentary was in its entirety. As I said earlier, the chairman of women commission was herself, in favour of its ban on the ground that it glorifies the despicable deeds of the rapists, there were certainly some strong reasons to take the steps. However, outright ban is not the solution. What I feel in this case the Indian government could have done is to do a pre-screening or compel the producer/director to show it to the select audience. The select audience could be the most intellectual people of India, the social commentators, the media personalities and member from various commissions instituted in the large country. As India has no dearth of commissions like women, child, dalit, minorities etc. and headed by the best of the minds in India, they could be part of that select audience and would have recommended whether the documentary should be banned or has something so compelling in it that it should be shown to nation at large.
Let me take you through this discourse on “one documentary” to the real problem itself – the heinous crime of rape.
The people who are vociferous in telling us that the documentary should not be banned also have some more things to tell us why it should not be banned. The foremost reasoning advanced by them is that it will open the eyes of the society and make the society to understand the real plague of modern India. Really? I have my own doubts.
If menace of rape could be curtailed by a documentary, most probably, someone would have figured it out long ago and would have made it in India. If that was so, Delhi would not have been termed as “rape capital”. If someone argues that a documentary helps to reduce the crime of rape by sensitising or by opening eyes of people, then, we are taking the issue very lightly. Then, our discourse will not help to find the cause of the problem and to employ the means to fix it. By placing too much faith in a documentary to open our eyes and to help our society and men in particular to make a right call to abstain from crime is a kind of hands –off approach and is an indication that things are out of our hands and expectation of some “divine intervention” to curb this menace. By saying this, I am not advocating any pre-censorship nor denying the possible positive impacts it may have been made to the society. But, a documentary will have its own limits. The real problem is to stay on course – in finding out the causes of crime and its fix. Let us not be carried away from our discourse-path because of the amount of cacophony it has been generated. Let us not get distracted by sudden alarm which may give false assuage to us that we have found a solution – a documentary to curb the crime. No, we have not and let me concentrate on the real issue.
In our unequal society, men and women are not equal. They should be but they are not. We live in a patriarchal society where women are for household work and for giving births. Man should be the macho one who goes out, toils hard on sun or in rain and brings the bread and butter to the home. Since men work so hard and women have to rely on him for food and security, it is the men who have the say on how things are to be. He can demand, ask and order a thing and “good woman” should fulfil his desires, wants, needs, wishes. This is not a classic plot of the novel. This is our society even today and only a miniscule of things have changed. This inequality between men-women and supposed superiority of men aggravated by other factors make many men monsters.
There is another inequality in our society. That is caste hierarchy. The people born in higher Brahmin caste are a superior one due to his good “dharmic” acts of previous life. He enjoys the best of the facilities of the society and earns his “due” respect. He will be governed by Manu’s laws in deciding what to eat and drink where to eat and drink etc. However, he will be completely oblivious of the fact of what Manu has to say in eying woman’s belly and bust. He glances at them at any opportunity he gets. Obviously, the women from a lower caste will be his first victim as she cannot raise her voice against a punditji, and even if she manages to raise her voice, no one will, anyway, believe her. She will become the subject of mockery and stigma if she does not keep quite. It helps to grow bigger monsters in men’s minds and in their underwear.
And the life in these monsters is pumped by our “ghatiya” system. Our corrupt police, administration, judiciary helps, indirectly, to ignite the fire within these “would be criminals”. First of all, there is ample chance that the crime goes unreported to the authorities as the stigma of being raped or sexually violence is too hard to handle for the women. It is not only her but her entire family feels ashamed if it is known that women in that home is violated without her any fault. Especially, imagine the situation, if two “behens” (sisters) need to get married. Who will come with any “rishta” (relation, marriage proposal) in that home if they know the shame she has brought! That is the thinking of our society. And the first step to do is to hush the matter. Most probably, after some thinking, the senior most male member (like father) may discuss this issue with some close confidants who can be rightly said to be “sajjans and Bhaladmis” (good and well educated people of the village) and may propose a honourable pact with the culprit – the marriage of the raped women. And that is how the things are kept amicably and honour are protected for some time until the daughter becomes destitute and returns to her “maitis(father’s home).
There would be some who are courageous to report the crime to the police. Depending on her caste, class, education etc. the First Information Report (“FIR”) may immediately get registered but in case of unfortunate ones, the reporting of crime will be another trauma. The immediate question would be asked: Where did you go? Why did you go? What were you wearing? What were you drinking? Was not it after sunset? Why she looked at the boy and smiled? Etc. etc. If she manages to answer these questions satisfactorily to the male chauvinist and returns from police office without getting sexually assaulted, she can console herself that she has won the half of the battle.
I feel what happens thereafter is the main reason why we are not able to control the menace of rape. In most of the cases, the insensitive Thanedar (Head of the Police Station) draws a pre-meditated conclusion in his mind that the women invited the trouble and sees no further need to investigate it. For him, the matter is closed. It could also be the case that the culprit is the high and mighty of the society to whom this police is actually providing the security. He feels the need to protect his masters and actually may inform the culprits what kind of insinuating remarks are made by a woman. Now, it is up to the master/culprit to take care of the things. The tools are simple and they are another dose of violence, assault, intimidation on the victim to take the matter back, to withdraw the FIR. In some cases and in likely scenario, the culprits will be minister’s sons, Thanedar’s nephew or District Collector’s son from his paramour. When people and families of such connections are to be questioned, even an honest officer may think twice over it. He wishes that matter be closed expeditiously and it involves extra-judicial means. The Policeman will earn few more bucks by doing a great duty and women languish in a mental trauma.
In some cases, police are compelled to carry out the investigation as there will be huge media interests in the case. The matter gets snowballed and civil activists will have the opportunity to come forward. The pressure and vigilance make the police to act but still not “swiftly”. The culprits get the hourly tips and a suggestion from police where and how to hide. It will take time to investigate and charge sheet to be filed and most probably, media will have another burning issue at hand to concentrate upon.
If police manage to arrest the culprits, still the case does not come to an end. There will be regular hearings, witness examination, cross-examination, and bail hearings etc. in the court which has been plagued by its own problems. With a greater speed, things happen outside the court. The threat and intimidation on the culprits and witnesses continue so that at crucial juncture, the statements are changed or are told to the courts that they have been recorded by police with force. The victim may herself be compelled to state that she registered a false case against the accused. The matter collapses. Many will come out of the court smiling despite being guilty and the victim becomes the object of stigma, mockery, and curse. Hope she does not have to take extreme steps.
Even when the police work diligently, the things move so slowly. Unless there is strong media vigilance on the case, there are no fast track courts in India and Nepal where crimes relating to violence on women are heard on a priority basis. This gives the opportunity to meddle in the trial. It is not uncommon to see defence counsel and prosecutor agreeing in advance when another date will be taken. When the Court rises for its proceedings, one of the counsels asks for the “traikh” (another date of hearing/adjournment for the day). On hearing this the “Nyaayamurtii/Shrimaan”(the Learned Judge) look at the another counsel who meekly nods his head. The Learned judge throws a flash of smile for a second and checks his diary and another date is given. The Learned Judges knows what is going on outside of his court but he is so busy to clear the backlogs on his dusty table covered with files on disputes relating to property, to murder, to rape that he has no time to think why another adjournment be disallowed. In a hot and dark courtroom on those typical days when power does not come for hours, it will not be unkind to say that the learned judge is keener to get out of the courtroom and may actually suggest all the counsels in the matters listed before him to take another “traikh”. Yaha to aisa hi chal raha hai barso se! (This is what is going on for years in our country Nepal and in India which has more or less a similar system.)
Imagine a situation when every crime is investigated thoroughly and swiftly, and when police acts as a custodian of law abiding citizens. Imagine a situation when culprits are arrested and presented in a court in no time. Imagine a situation when courts strictly adhere to the rules relating to adjournments and do not grant it more often than prescribed by a statute book. Imagine a situation where special fast track courts are constituted to hear the crimes relating to violence to women. Imagine if these things actually do happen, will you still think that the monsters inside men will still not be in control? Definitely, it will be in control to a great extent.
So, where is the solution to the problem? First, the problem lies on the rotten system. Our rot in police administration, in legal services, in judiciary is so deep that the cosmetics cannot alter the results that we are seeing. If the culprits are convinced by the “Fly Now, Pay Later” attitude of law enforcing authorities, and of courts, then, they will let their monster to go free more often. Therefore, it is time to end the male patriarchy in our administrations, in our courts. It is time to end caste based discrimination and power structure in every strata of our society. There is a need to involve every race, caste, gender etc. in government services by a means of affirmative action and positive discrimination. Things are lying where they were many years ago and it is not going to change easily. But, let us spend our precious time on the deserving issue. It will be a long fight and each needs to be iconoclast in her own realm.
When the feisty feminists, irrespective of their genders, start coming out to deprecate the “ghatiya” administration, we can see appreciable changes in the society. I conclude saying that a documentary can produce infinitesimal impact on the society. Time is ripe now to work on the real issue by shunning the brouhaha over the documentary.