Breaking Down News: Monster in the Mirror
After December 16, 2012, India looked into the mirror and saw a monster. A private shock, it provoked a paroxysm of public rage nevertheless. Two years later, the monster is on film, and India cannot bear to look into its own eyes again because this time, to its political elite, it feels like a public shaming. This is the sum and substance of the sham uproar that has broken out about media ethics. And this time, the excitement is in the corridors of power, not in the street.
Leslee Udwin’s Channel Four documentary is an hour long, while the excitement is over a 15-second interview of convicted rapist and killer Mukesh Singh. Because his opinions about women and sex can be heard on any street corner in any Indian city, take your pick. Mukesh Singh is the Indian Everyman, which makes his interview aggravating. Besides, his opinions belong in a thought bubble shared by the loudest right-wing voices, which the government has been reluctant to mute. This, too, must cause embarrassment in high places.
The uproar started with the home ministry playing protector of Mother India’s izzat, and ended with a futile attempt at retrospective globocopping, calling for a global ban. Futile, because the BBC short-circuited the moralistic nonsense by running India’s Daughter, its Storyville documentary, ahead of schedule. Within hours, it was available on YouTube and via Bittorrent. Which means that it is permanently, unstoppably out there. Good show.
In between, India’s most elite made fools of themselves in public. With the notable exception of Anu Aga and Javed Akhtar, parliamentarians failed to understand what was happening. Prominent lawyers protested that the course of justice was being perverted, quite forgetting that following the pivotal 2012 incident, the law was only one of many instrumentalities. The public, social media and traditional media played key roles in creating an atmosphere in which targets of sexual crimes now find it easier to complain, even against powerful perpetrators.
Certain sections of the traditional media, of course, seem to have lost it, two years on. Times Now has weighed in on the side of the government: “India is outraged over a documentary which gave one of the main accused rapists in the Nirbhaya case a chance to showcase his sickening views.” The slug: “Destroying all norms of journalism.” The targets: Channel 4 and NDTV. The hashtag: #NirbhayaInsulted.
Actually, nothing but the TV viewer’s intelligence has been insulted. Times Now’s news report claimed: “The documentary, now banned in India, has drawn criticism from all quarters.” One critical tweet by a person unknown followed. The channel claimed that Nirbhaya’s mother condemned the documentary. Its own footage showed her condemning the tardiness of the law, rather. She had no views on the film. She only wanted to see her daughter’s killers hanged quickly, but legally.
The film has brought out the worst in too many people. The opinions expressed in the 15-second interview also suggest that while Tihar Jail is classified as a correctional facility, it is failing to correct — even the UN has commented on the inhumanity of its inmate. But then, it isn’t Tihar problem alone, for Everyman is everywhere. Sexual crimes of inhuman cruelty are reported all too frequently, and usually very briefly. The Nirbhaya incident caused shock because one of us had been touched — an urban person in search of success.
Now, India’s Daughter has shocked by retelling the story as it was, with real names and real opinions, setting aside the polite fiction of ‘Nirbhaya’, the name that the woman never bore. Sexual crime has thrived in a culture where the perpetrator can be proud while the target must hide in shame. Under this camouflage, the monster remains at large, and grins back in the mirror.
Source:: Indian Express