Beyond the BBC’s narrative


I was reading all the furor over the release of documentary about Nirbhaya, produced by BBC. It is one of the gruesome incidents in our country, which happened in Delhi. And the people of our country came out in big numbers to push for stringent actions and modification of laws. Such a mass rise of people has never been seen in any other democratic country. Not even in countries like US, UK, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia etc. It showed that the collective conscience of our nation is strung by a common thread of unity and concern for each other.

There are multiple problems in our society, including domestic violence and a bias against girls, that are getting addressed at various levels – be it through better education, scholarships, employment opportunities, higher social participation etc. We as a society are well aware of all these drawbacks, that have a long history. I don’t think anyone is completely unaware of these facts. We lag far behind in assuring birth of girl children, their education, employment and not hurting their social progress. These are complex problems that have both a long history of patriarchy mixed with a sense of gender superiority among many. But, over the past few decades, we are also seeing a great shift in this attitude.

Now, the question that comes to our minds is that, where does our nation stand in comparison with other countries? Well, I wouldn’t be tempted to get this statistic. Human lives can’t be reduced to statistical discussion. But, since this documentary came out, I thought it would be a good time do some fact check. [1] I mean is this problem only India specific? How is it in other countries?
Rape_rate_per_100,000_-_country_comparison_-_United_Nations_2012
As can be seen, our country doesn’t figure anywhere near the top 10 countries where women feel insecure. In relative terms our nation comes 11th according to this UN statistics. In actual numbers, it is topped by many of the “advanced” nations – US, Sweden and so on. Even if we take the argument that it is under reported, even then the cases don’t come anywhere near US, Sweden, UK and many others. So, why did the producer choose to shoot this particular incident and that too did not portray the power of our people, rather than focus on the statements of the convicts. This is a question that needs to be thought of. Why did not she choose to film the gruesome incidents in US (father putting her daughter in garage for many years, and many other unimaginable pain caused to many others)? Is this yet another example where the media have chosen to portray how others want to see our nation? When things are only getting better in our country – laws are now better than in many other “civilized” countries, there are girl toilets in almost all the public schools, the achievements of Indian women are now being talked about worldwide, girls are performing much better in schools, girl dropout rates are decreasing and they are becoming much more independent than ever before, still why would anyone want to portray our nation in bad light – when, in fact, it is not the case. Of course, it is know to all of us that our society as a whole need to change the attitude towards women, and it is happening slowly, but surely. And what good can this documentary bring about in the attitude of a vast section of society (almost 90%), who can’t even understand English. So, the question is shouldn’t we just keep quiet and clean up our house before we point fingers at others? I would have agreed with the movie if it were shot with the purpose of helping us become more aware, and therefore bring about changes in our society. But, the fact is that UK and US have much worse reputation when it comes to how they treat women. Of course, no one would even dare to shoot a documentary of a on-trial convict in those countries, since the producer would have to face legal consequences.

Even from my personal experience, it feels extremely insecure to stay in any of the public places (such as railway stations) in US, Australia etc. Unlike the rosy pictures of the west that is seen in the films, in reality, you can find more homeless and beggars on the streets of US than you can come across in India. Also, there have been countless incidents in these “advanced” nations where beggars would point a gun at you and ask for money. I have personally been frightened by 2 such incidents where “beggars” would come straight on, asking for money on the streets of Auckland and New York. I have never felt safe even to stand in a metro station after 11 PM in SFO!! All that said, there are lot of good aspects that we should try to imbibe from the people of those countries too. Everything and everyone has their good and bad sides.

So, questions arise because, though Leslee Udwin knows that her country has one of the highest incidents of insult against women, why did she come all the way to India to portray only the words of the convicts. Wouldn’t the children and youngsters around the world be misled by this “selective journalistic activism”. And why would BBC choose to telecast a program based on factually wrong concepts on India. I can’t blame BBC. It has a long history, which includes calling “26/11” terrorists as mere “gunmen”.

We can all offer our prayers for the countless families affected by this and many other gruesome acts against women, but to portray our whole nation as a people devoid of values is not just untrue, but points to a larger problem. Aptly, the courageous father of Nirbhaya has come out in the open voicing his concern about the telecast, even after a ban and against putting out the name and photo of their child in BBC. Hope, we could all raise against not just such gruesome acts, but also understand and voice our opinions against the misleading portrayal of our country.


Edits: 

I do not have an opinion on banning the telecast. Whether it would be good or bad, I really don’t know. But legally they couldn’t have shown the picture and name of the girl. Also, the interview, if you have watched it, are all out of context narration. The convicts statements are cut and edited to be included in various scenes. Also, since the convict is on appeal to the Supreme Court, he had to defend, no matter what it is. He had the choice of making any statement that could save his life, and hence need not necessarily portray the reality.


[1] “Rape rate per 100,000 – country comparison – United Nations 2012”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rape_rate_per_100,000_-_country_comparison_-_United_Nations_2012.png#mediaviewer/File:Rape_rate_per_100,000_-_country_comparison_-_United_Nations_2012.png
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