Why India’s Daughter holds a mirror to our society…

“The victim is as guilty as her rapists,” “She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop. This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don’t think so…”
Asaram Bapu (Spiritual Guru)

“…no one commits rape intentionally. It happens by mistake.”
Ramsewak Paikra (Home Minister, Chhattisgarh)

“Women should not venture out with men who are not relatives.”
Abu Azmi (Maharashtra State Chief, Samajwadi Party)

“In the urban culture, where women are out with their boyfriends till late in the night skimpily dressed, rape instances are bound to be higher than in rural areas where women are mostly confined to their homes and are dressed properly,”
Abu Azmi (Maharashtra State Chief, Samajwadi Party)

“Boys and girls… they had differences, and the girl goes and gives a statement that I have been raped. Should rape cases lead to hanging? Boys are boys, they make mistakes.”
Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party Head, former Defence Minister & Chief Minister)

“This is a social crime which depends on men and women. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong,”
Babulal Gaur (Home Minister, Madhya Pradesh)

“Many students misuse mobile phones by watching blue films and hearing obscene songs which pollute their mind,”
Binay Bihari (Minister Art, Culture & Youth Affairs, Bihar)

‘“Women should not wear bikinis in beaches ‘for their own safety’, and ‘girls in short skirts visiting pubs’ are against the culture…”
Sudin Dhavalikar (Senior Minister Public Works Department, Goa)

“Crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful. It is a dangerous trend. But such crimes won’t happen in ‘Bharat’ or the rural areas of the country.”
Mohan Bhagwat (RSS Chief)

“It’s not the state government which is responsible for rapes, in fact in most of the cases its consensual sex.” … In 90 per cent cases, the girls and women initially accompany boys on their own…”
Dharambir Goyat (Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee Member)

“…people must choose between a ‘promiscuous culture’ that allows public kissing, or a city made safe by moral policing.”
Satyapal Singh (Police Commissioner, Bombay)

“Women display their bodies and indulge in various obscene activities. Women are unaware of the kind of message [their actions] generate…”
“Women equally responsible” for crimes against them.
Vibha Rao (Chairperson, Chhattisgarh State Women Commission)

“Rape cases are on a rise in the country because men and women interact with each other more freely now.”
Mamata Banerjee (Chief Minister, West Bengal)

“This western model is alarming. What is happening is we have imbibed the US. We have lost all the values we had in cities…”
Ashok Singhal (VHP Leader)

“We should pay more attention to where our girls are going. Mobile phones should be banned,” We should stop our girls from wearing jeans.”
Ranvir Singh (Khap Panchayat Leader, Haryana)

“These pretty women, dented and painted… Have no contact with ground reality,”
Abhijit Mukherjee (Member of Parliament and son of current Indian President)

“Just because the country attained independence at midnight, is it proper for women moving at midnight?”
Botsa Satyanarayana (Congress Committee President, Andhra Pradesh)

“Rapes are not in the control of the police … Even the villagers from coastal Andhra are wearing salwar-kameez (as against traditional dress). All these things provoke,”
V Dinesh Reddy (Director General of Police, Andhra Pradesh)

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Why We Must Watch India’s Daughter (an Indian man’s perspective)

I cried when I watched this documentary.

I did not cry because I was shocked by what the rapists or their lawyers said or from shame, based on their views about women (they did not say anything India and the world does not already know), but because of the dignity and grace of Nirbhaya’s parents and because of the glimpse we get of a truly amazing young woman, who would have made us all proud. The BBC was wrong to market it in the way they did; they decided, like most media institutions today, to pursue a path of cheap publicity to gain views through sensationalism and controversy by focusing on the rapists. This film is not about the rapists.

I cannot even begin to fathom the enormity of her parents’ loss or the depth of their suffering. Yet they have presented themselves with an élan and dignity rarely shown by world leaders or royalty. Their wisdom, stoic demeanour and perspective prove once more that being rich or poor has nothing to do with human dignity and grace. I know a lot of wealthy and well-educated people who have far more medieval and regressive attitudes toward girls. Nirbhaya’s father and mother not only celebrated the birth of their daughter with the same fanfare reserved for boys, but also gave her everything they would have given a boy.

Unlike most of us in India, they realised that their child’s happiness had little to do with what they might want for her or what our society’s minimal and ambitionless expectations are. They decided that the greatest gift they could give her was to nurture the independent spirit with which she was born, and do everything in their power and limited means to help her realise her dreams; not their dreams. So when she asked them to invest the money her father was saving for her marriage into her education, they not only obliged but also sold their ancestral property to help.

Instead of forcing their child down a path of marriage and throttling her ambitions, they lauded and supported her choices. It seems like they gave her a strong value system, taught her to differentiate right from wrong, instilled principles and then let her fly. They allowed her to make her own choices and mistakes, but were there to help and support when she asked for it. I think many parents today feel that they need to protect their children from the world, when they really need to give them the values and skills that will help them take on and face the world.

I was also moved by a story about a boy who tried to steal Nirbhaya’s purse. A policeman caught the boy and started to beat him until she intervened and asked the cop to stop. She told him that beating the child would not help him learn his mistake. She took the boy aside and asked him why he tried to steal her purse. He told her that, like her, he too wanted nice clothes, shoes and to be able to eat hamburgers. She bought the boy everything he asked for but also made him promise never to steal again. Wow. Her actions are again a testament to how her parents brought her up. And it makes me think about how we are busy building statues for Mayawati and temples for Modi – boy, do we have our priorities all wrong.

Yes, the film also interviews one of the rapists and the defence lawyers. But it neither glorifies rape nor gives these men a platform for self-aggrandisement; in fact, it left me feeling the opposite. I felt sorry for these sad and lost men who are clearly trapped by their small minds and their medieval misogyny. But the thing that struck me most about what the rapists and their lawyers said was that it sounded like the same things our politicians and leaders have been saying for years (See: Why India’s Daughter Holds Mirror to our Society”); their attitudes about women’s place in our society and their indifference towards women was no different. This, I believe is the reason, our leaders have had such a violent, vicious and fearful reaction to this film. They cannot bear to look into this mirror…

The reason I believe that every Indian MUST watch this film is two-fold. One, rape is a global problem, not just an Indian one, and monsters exist in every society. Let’s use this as an opportunity to begin an honest and public debate about our demons. This way we can start to change the attitudes of the next generation of men, empower women with self-worth and give them equal rights from birth. If we refuse to confront the ugly truths behind its underlying causes, we will only ever treat the symptoms; much like our government does with hastily passing new laws banning lingerie on shop mannequins or by banning Uber.

The second reason is to honour the memory of Nirbhaya. She wanted to live; even after everything that happened. Nirbhaya wanted to be a doctor, she called it the most honourable profession – being able to heal people and save lives. Let’s use this as an opportunity to make India a place where a “girl can do anything,” as she used to say.

If we do this together, not only can we create a stronger and more powerful India, but we will honour Nirbhaya’s memory and ensure that she lives forever.