India's Daughter: Leslee Udwin's controversial documentary on the infamous 2012 Delhi gang rape

Why the Indian government should reconsider its decision to ban the BBC documentary

India's Daughter, a film by Leslee Udwin, documentary film on 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder
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India's Daughter is a controversial documentary film, directed by the English actress and producer Leslee Udwin, based on the infamous 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student. India’s Daughter was initially planned to be broadcast worldwide on International Women's Day i.e. 8 March 2015, but BBC preponed its telecast to 4 March after the Indian government banned the film, deeming it highly sensitive for public broadcast. A highly upset government has served a legal notice to BBC after the channel ignored the government’s advice and went ahead with the broadcast of India’s Daughter which also features the controversial interview of one of the Delhi gang-rape convicts. India’s daughter was also uploaded on YouTube by BBC on its channel but it was later taken off by YouTube after the intervention of the Indian authorities.

Now, BBC claims that India’s Daughter is well within its editorial guidelines. Not to mention that BBC follows the strictest of guidelines and norms for conducting research work for all its productions. So, what is the real problem? First, we Indians are a sensitive lot and are not as open and receptive as the people in the West to such controversial material. Second, the documentary promos (mainly sections from the convict’s interview) shown on the Indian TV channels looked particularly disturbing as is always the case whenever certain controversial footage is shown out of context. Clearly, the makers were trying to be a bit clever in a bid to create some buzz before the telecast. Also, the Indian news channels made the situation worse for the makers. The news channels in our country have a tendency to blow things out of proportion so as to create some sensation in order to boost their TRPs. A major concern with these 24/7 channels is that the quality of content that gets broadcast is worse than B-grade movies! Also, they often end up stoking fire on delicate issues which ought to be treated with a lot of care and responsibility.

Leslee Udwin, Maker of India's Daughter, Addressing a Press Conference
Leslee Udwin: Maker of India's Daughter 

While the debates and discussion broadcasted day in and day out on the Indian TV channels are invariably meaningless, the debaters not only lack knowledge but also the most basic manners. And, to make the matters worse, the moderators forget their true purpose and end up becoming debaters themselves as if one ‪Arnab Goswami weren't enough. I once overheard a Belgian journalist telling his Indian counterpart that he has been advised to stay away from the Indian news channels so as to keep his sanity intact. My earnest advice to the concerned governing body is to make it mandatory for these news channels to ensure that both the TV presentators as well as the participants first complete certifications in basic propriety before being allowed to appear on National Television.

As to our governments, when will they learn that banning films like "India's Daughter" is not the solution to the heinous acts of sexual violence? The Indian authorities feel that the movie would do damage to India’s reputation in the global arena (it should be noted that the victim's parents are themselves a part of the documentary and that it was shot only after getting their consent). But, in truth, the reputation of the country started deteriorating the day this heinous incident took place. Besides, it's not that sexual depravity is non-existent in the West. If anything, the government should be more concerned about spreading social awareness among the masses. The gender inequality is the root cause of sexual exploitation. The dogmatic mindset that tends to put restrictions on what kind of dress women should wear, what type of education they should get, how women should carry themselves in the society, deeply rooted in our patriarchal society. When in our own families our elders give the male child more importance or attention, the seeds for this inequality are sowed there and then. So, watching films such as India’s Daughter can actually help in curbing such acts of depravity. For, more than anything, such documentaries can spread awareness about the root causes of evil. We always speak of the need for strict laws but seldom do we give any importance to social awareness which is of much more importance when it comes to fighting social evils prevalent in our society. The importance of motion pictures in spreading this awareness can never be overemphasized.

- Murtaza Ali

Readers, please feel free to share your thoughts/views in the comment box below. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!  

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  1. I can't understand our government's decision stating that the objectionable content in 'India's Daughter' could lead to public unrest. This is the same reason that's been given under various occasions of ban by the state & central government, and even by our courts. Are we an anarchist society, creating unrest over anything. I don't think general public ever created ruckus over a movie or documentary or a book. Just because the documentary is produced by BBC, some claim its the old imperialist view on India. Then, why don't the Indian channels come up with making such socially conscious documentaries? All they could conduct is blabbering, stupid talk shows. The documentary in no way maligns India. This banning thing is getting very worse in our country. In the last few days, the censor board -- the so-called moral backbone of our country -- banned the word 'lesbian' in a movie; Patna high court banned the movie 'Dirty Politics'; a Tamil writer is beaten up for writing some 'objectionable' things about a particular caste, and he is slapped with obscenity charge from police; beef ban; ban on 'Fifty Shades of Grey' (most laughable of all).

  2. As a nation we are at a loss (given, we are a highly touchy lot) when it comes to dealing with these so called sensitive issues... mindset of each and every Indian needs to be changed completely... we need visionaries like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Swami Vivekananda.

  3. It is absolutely disgusting to c d attitude ... No shame even after doing such heinous crime.. Why should d video b banned. There is no good reason behind it...

    1. You are right... it's been banned for no good reason!!!

  4. Its really saddening situation. We the nation of peace lovers are breeding insanity, pent up anger.
    These so called office bearers are fighting over ban on the documentary, they are least concerned about crimes going around their own homes.

    1. Yes, the authorities ought to focus on more important issues rather than seeking the media limelight!!!

  5. I saw the documentary. Wish everybody, especially the people in power (and with power) watch it and introspect. It is a very sensitive portrayal.

    Sad that India today is No Country for Women.


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