Leslee Udwin is the writer, producer, and director of “India’s Daughter”
In this week’s edition of Time magazine, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that the ban his government imposed on the public interest documentary “India’s Daughter” is “not a question of freedom of speech, it is more a legal question.” He told Time that the documentary revealed the identity of the young woman who died after being gang-raped on a moving bus. He also stressed that “the case is still sub judice and the telecast which features the interview of the person who is alleged to have committed the crime could have impacted the judicial process.”
“I do not think it is a question of freedom of speech, it is more a question of law and respecting the victim and the judicial processes in this particular case,” the Prime Minister said.
It is heartening that the PM has at last made a statement on the ban of “India’s Daughter.” I am further heartened by the fact that he has not repeated the Ministry of Home Affairs’ groundless position on the film regarding permissions, content, and public unrest. I would like to respond to the rationales Prime Minister Modi does offer for the ban of a film that was not seen before that ban took effect:
The Indian version of the film did not name the rape victim, and fully complied with Indian law. Had the Indian version of the film been allowed to be broadcast on NDTV as planned on March 8th, it would not have contained the victim’s name. Her name has been publicized elsewhere on the Internet, from 2012 onwards, (including on Wikipedia), since her parents released her name to international journalists. Her parents also proudly announced her name in an interview for the international version of the documentary. They did so to make the point that shame should not adhere to a victim of rape. The shame belongs to the rapist and to any society that teaches the rapist to devalue women.
Her parents are in the best position to do justice to her memory; they participated in the documentary, viewed it fully before its release, and gave consent for its release. They want her story to be told for reasons opposite to those that Modi has cited. They understand that the only way to give meaning to the tragedy of her loss is to try to ensure that other girls are spared such heinous crimes.
There is no new content in the film that is not on court record; two highly respected former Indian judges have given their formal written opinions that the film does not impede the judicial process nor lend itself to any sort of prejudicing of the Supreme Court proceedings. Five further oral opinions were given to the same effect by senior judges and advocates of the Indian Supreme and High courts. The transcript of the trial was meticulously combed through by a lawyer for any variations with what Mukesh Singh said in the documentary; there was one significant point of variation which amounted to “new evidence,” and this was responsibly excised from all versions of the documentary. The Supreme Court may not and does not regard any information that is not “on record” with the courts. I even took the additional precautionary measure of showing the film to the prosecution team for the state. The opinion I received, in person, after they had watched the documentary was that the film “is 100% accurate to the case and as long as you do not name the victim, and put a disclaimer on the front of the film, there can be no prejudice to the Supreme Court proceedings from this film.” I believe the decision to broadcast the documentary was correct, and legally and morally responsible.
I call on the PM to consider the degree to which this documentary holds a mirror to his own statements on women’s rights and atrocities against women.
I ask him to further consider that the documentary in fact praises India and those forward-looking ordinary people who so valiantly and tirelessly protested this heinous rape on the streets of India’s cities. I ask him to consider that India led the world by example in these protests; no other country has responded with such forward-thinking demands for change and championing of women’s rights as India did in December, 2012 and January, 2013.
I call on the PM to lift the unwarranted ban and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s advisory notice (which is tantamount to a ban). In doing so, India’s Prime Minister will serve the cause of human rights the world over and inspire other nations to do the same.