It's not like Western media does not interview its monsters
news Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 05:30
By Dr. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad The News Minute| March 10, 2015 The brouhaha over the BBC documentary "India's Daughter" leaves me somewhat befuddled. Almost everyone who has deigned to comment in the media seems to have drawn up an inference that is either black or white. It has been more than three days since the Leslee Udwin directed programme was telecast by the BBC. The Indian government has obtained a stay order from the Court which restricts its broadcast but I was amazed that it had not taken into account that the Court's remit does not extend beyond the political boundaries of the Indian state; and in this day and age an order of that nature is invariably self-defeating. The Indian government went to the ridiculous extent of asking the BBC to refrain from broadcasting the item - a request that the BBC ignored. We witnessed a spectacle of individuals holding different positions on nearly every television channel. And the exchanges more often than not transgressed the norms of decorum and civility. Before I commence elaboration of my own take, I feel I must add a disclaimer. I am not one who believes the the BBC is a repository of journalistic virtue. Time and again, I have known it to take refuge in expedient positions which do little credit to the Fourth Estate. Being one of the oldest tele-broadcasters,it has acquired an aura of infallibility which is not supported by evidence (notwithstanding what Sir Mark Tully has to state). But in this particular case it would be fair to state that it was well within its rights to ignore the Indian state's demand. I would go so far as to say that the government served to embarrass all of us by making such a request. I have watched the documentary on YouTube. I believe it is still there despite the government's attempts to get it deleted. And I can confidently state that I personally did not detect anything that in my view would lend itself open to the charges of "titillation" levelled by its critics. I have been following the case right from the outset. Immediately after the incident ,I had declared in one of my columns, that, on a collective level, I have never felt as demeaned as I did after this event and the insensitive reactions that followed it. My position remains unchanged. On the counts of telling the victim's story and establishing that this was a case of plain sociopathy and not a psychiatric illness, I would commend the filmmaker! The critics of the documentary tended to stress mainly on the legal and moral dimensions. Vrinda Grover was one of the saner voices among the critics. She pointed out that while the trial court decision was being appealed against, the accused should not have been permitted a platform to present his defense. While the statute does permit discussion on court judgement and there is no legal bar on it, I found myself in some sympathy with this viewpoint - perhaps it could have been shown after the apex court had ruled on the appeal.There was yet another issue of Udwin having violated her terms of agreement when she obtained the permission to interview the convict Mukesh [Singh]. Udwin has strongly denied this. What I found most disturbing however was the logic that was employed by the other set of critics. It was almost surreal to note the learned panelists invoking a jingoistic sense of nationalism-that this was a conspiracy to defame India as rape was a worldwide menace and the producers would never come up with such a dissection of depravity in their own countries. The fact that such an act can take place in India does shame us all-and it would do us credit if we were to acknowledge this sense of shame and take corrective measures. In addition to the convicts, what should shame us even more is the perverse mind set of the supposed officers of the court who represented the convicts. Plus the insensitive and sloppy policing which should concern us all. I would have also included the shocking statement that came from the former Joint Commissioner of Delhi Police Maxwell Pereira, a favourite of the telly channels. In an interactive session on the CNN-IBN he had stated that the Delhi Police Commissioner was completely blameless as after all he had 'not raped the girl.' It is no use denying this mindset as it is a reality. A sizable number of our population do harbour this mindset. The "khaps" are not a figment of people's imagination.And only when we acknowledge this would we be able to take it head-on. Perhaps the most ill-informed was the contention that the Western countries shy away from publicising their own instances of human depravity. As there were some very senior people participating in these debates, it was all the more surprising to observe that none could recall Charles Manson and the books that had been written on him (in addition to the tele-documentaries). I am old enough to remember Alber De Salvo, the infamous Boston strangler. Much later I worked as an attending physician at Bridgewater Hospital where he received treatment. He had by then died but I learned that at least a dozen books had been written on him by different researchers in addition to a full length movie starring Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda. In the 1980s, when I worked in Britain, Denis Nielson was convicted whose crimes were equally if not more heinous and certainly do not bear recall in this column. Even a hardened Tele-reporter like Kate Adie was noticeably shaking when she reported this case.Several books were published on this man after interviewing him. The whole point is that there are monsters in every part of the globe. No nation can be held collectively guilty for their emergence on the scene provided they have demonstrable will to bring them to justice and effect measures to prevent their heinous actions. Do we have that-that is the question we have to ask.The judiciary has done its job but it is an unacceptably slow process. If this episode spurs us into ameliorating this deficiency , at least some positive would result from this very unfortunate saga. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability on the same.