Ban on Nirbhaya documentary: Let’s accept it, we are offended by our own ugliness

New Delhi,Gaurav Pandhi: When you let loose a cat among the pigeons, the pigeons close their eyes thinking, if they can’t see the cat, the cat also can’t see them. Of course the cat can see all of them, and will pick the ones who chose to shut their eyes, first.

Our fate today is similar to that of the pigeons. It took just one BBC documentary to make me realise that. The media is outraged. Some TV channels have gone on a hyper-drive with #NirbhayaInsulted. Dramatic scenes played out in the Parliament. The Home Minister has banned the documentary. Our honourable MPs are ‘outraged’. Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan dared the government to hand over one of the Nirbhaya rapists, Mukesh Singh, to the people on the streets.

“A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy”, says the death row convict Mukesh Singh. Hang him, hang him to death publicly. Make an example out of him. But the act of banning the documentary is akin to smashing the mirror because the mirror said ‘you are the ugliest of all’.

Let’s accept it, we are offended by our own ugliness. We are offended, because a foreigner tells us we have the most sickening patriarchal mind-set in the world.

Misogyny, which we are condemning so vociferously today, is not a crime in India. It is very much a part of our culture and is held close to the heart by most Indians who put up a solid offence against it in public. It is deeply rooted in our psyche, so much so that at times we fail to identify it.

Rape in India is also used as a weapon to “shame” the woman. This is precisely the reason why women are raped in political, communal and social conflicts. This denotes how the society looks at women and it also differentiates the rapes in India with other countries. Thus, the arguments that India is being singled out falls flat. We have a bigger demon within our social structure and we refuse to identify it.

In the documentary Mukesh Singh says, “We wanted to teach her a lesson for breaching social/cultural norms” and “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy”. How is Mukesh Singh any different from MP Yogi Adityanath’s men who allegedly asked a gathering in UP to “rape the corpses of dead Muslim women?” If you accept the latter and condemn the former, I can only point out at the sheer hypocrisy of this.

Ask yourself. Do you think Mukesh Singh is right – that girls should not be allowed to venture out after dark? Ask your friends, comrades, family. I have personally come across many people who, after making long arguments, eventually settle for the view that women are somewhere to blame and should avoid going out after dark.

Let me ask you again. What is your opinion about a woman who has several consensual relationships with men and enjoys her sexuality? Even if we don’t admit it, I can tell you with precision what is the first word that would have crossed your mind on hearing that question. The reason why we don’t want to watch the documentary is because we don’t want to believe that those rapists think exactly like us.

Who are these rapists? Where have they come from? Have they been bred differently? They have emerged from amongst us. They belong to the same society to which we all belong. They come from all walks of life, castes and religions. Every woman in my life, be it my mother, my wife, my sister, a friend or a colleague, has been a victim of our patriarchal mind-set which considers women as lesser mortals.

If you come to think of it, there is only a thin line that separates us from them. They brutalised a woman physically and killed her. We, on the other hand, are pretty much at ease with raping and brutalising women mentally and reducing them to second grade citizens in their own country, as long as we keep a safe distance from the law. Whether or not the documentary will ever be aired in India or not, it has been ensured that the next time you think in the same way or come across a person blaming women/ her timing/ character/ type of clothes for the rape, it will remind you of these rapists and the fact that you think like them.

Incidentally, a documentary by BBC was banned in Pakistan in 2011. It was titled Secret Pakistan and had sought to expose Pakistan’s dubious intent in the war against terrorism. Banning the documentary achieved little. Allowing it to be seen may have helped Pakistan build a discourse against its own policies. We seem to have committed the same mistake today that Pakistan committed in 2011.

Editor’s Note: Gaurav Pandhi is a senior columnist from India and The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.