The BBC’s documentary India’s Daughter about the brutal rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, a young medical student on her way from the movies with a friend who was tricked onto a bus and gang raped has been gaining controversial steam over the past twenty-four hours after India’s government moved to ban the film from being shown on TV in their country. The BBC complied and removed the film from their programming but that hasn’t stopped many Youtubers from posting the film online. The Twittersphere has been blowing up with people either praising the decision to censor the film or vehemently arguing against it. Regardless, if India’s intentions were to censor and downplay the controversy, their approach has certainly backfired.
Having watched it myself today on one of these bootlegged Youtube accounts (I’ll post the link below), I can say that it is one of the most disturbing films I have watched in recent history. The documentary, though not particularly artful, managed to paint a horrific picture of the events of that terrible night when Jyoti Singh was fatally raped in Delhi and even more vividly portray a shocking attitude towards women on the part of the attackers who showed no remorse and took no responsibility for their actions.
One of the more controversial parts of the documentary is the decision to give voice to Mukesh Singh, one of the attackers and the driver of the bus that Jyoti was lured into. He goes on to say truly shocking and vile things such as no decent girl would be roaming around the streets at 9 pm and that the girl is more responsible for rape than the boy without even an ounce of regret or empathy on his face. I understand the concern that by interviewing this man, we are giving him a platform to further his views but I think the interview does quite the opposite. It’s repulsive, it’s shocking and clearly serves to show how monstrous these acts and these attitudes really are. We need to no longer stay blind to the kind of attitudes towards women that exist in India and around the world, we need to face it head on and we need to deal with it. It’s not a platform for hate speech but rather a wake up call for change.
At the beginning of the film, Joyti’s mother explains that her name means “light”. If there is any light that comes from this story it’s Joyti’s life and her determination to educate herself and change the mentality of the world she lived in. There is one part of the film that is unarguably worth watching, it’s the telling of her story. In the final scene of the film when Jyoti’s funeral pyre is burning and we see what is literally her light going out, I was struck with a thought; we can keep that light burning by fighting for changes in society and her death need not be in vain.