“A trial by press, electronic media or public agitation is the very antithesis of rule of law” stated India’s Supreme Court in State of Maharashtra v. Rajendra J. Gandhi [(1997) 8 SCC 386]. This goes to the heart of a democratic society as opposed to a banana republic. The struggle between Freedom of Expression and Justice has been going on for a long time in the free socities of the world. English, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India have approached it very differently. While US started off with complete free as part of First Amendment (including of the Press) and then put caveats in some cases, English used executive action in absence of a Constitution. India on the other hand, in the wisdom of the makers of its Constitution, chosenot
to keep Freedom of Expression unfettered. It had to be viewed in perspective of a larger sense of justice and fairness. As the Supreme Court stated in Sahara vs SEBI case in 2012:
Freedom of expression is not an absolute value under our Constitution. It must not be forgotten that no single value, no matter exalted, can bear the full burden of upholding a democratic system of government. Underlying our Constitutional system are a number of important values, all of which help to guarantee our liberties, but in ways which sometimes conflict. Under our Constitution, probably, no values are absolute. All important values, therefore, must be qualified and balanced against, other important, and often competing, values. This process of definition, qualification and balancing is as much required with respect to the value of freedom of expression as it is for other values. Consequently, free speech, in appropriate cases, has got to correlate with fair trial. It also follows that in appropriate case one right [say freedom of expression] may have to yield to the other right like right to a fair trial.
During an ongoing trial, with media trial going on and conclusions already delivered, is there any room for justice? Specially if the confessions of accused have not just been recorded in a dubious manner – depending on whether law enforcement officials were present or not, it could be a legal confession admissible in court of law – but also played for all?
That goes to the heart of the ban of the now controversial documentary “India’s Daughter”. In the name of Freedom of Expression, BBC has sought to upstage the pillar of India’s democracy – the Indian Justice system. It must be understood unequivocally that Supreme Court is where the buck of Justice Vs Freedom stops! As stated in Sahara vs SEBI, the court says it explicitly – “…. Supreme Court is not only the sentinel of the fundamental rights but also a balancing wheel between the rights, subject to social control.”
Irrespective of the merits of the documentary, the fact is that its showing and disbursement in India jeopardizes the justice in the very crime that this film aspires to bring attention to. Is it anyone’s bet that an expert defense lawyer will not use the fairness appeal to whisk the demonic rapists out of the legal punishment that they so deserve on the very back of the release of this documentary in India?
Outrage is fine. Cries for Freedom too cute to ignore. But can we have one champion of Justice? Showing of the documentary in India will leave the door wide open for the rapist and killers to walk off of the gallows that they so correctly deserve!
“Its a Mindset Problem” and the many Bigoted activists
Such is the contempt for the Justice system in the very DNA of the Human Rights activists that it is indeed remarkable that they are even heard with any modicum of seriousness. Leave alone giving them a platform on the top media publications in US and UK. Of course, one wonders in absence of a formal and fiercely free Judicial system (which has sentenced serving ministers and even an ex Prime Minister), what do the activists hope to use for Justice? Intervention from foreign countries to perpetuate a “Shaming game”?
In a rather shameful and remarkably bigoted expression of such contempt for Judiciary, Priyamvada Gopal writes in “The Guardian”:
To talk about rape in terms of a savage cultural psyche locked to the past is to miss the dense wood for the most exotic trees if that discussion does not examine how the same government appealed to now by Udwin is backed by Hindu right-wing political groups which wielded mass rape as a weapon against Muslim women in Gujarat in 2002 where Modi was chief minister.
She of course, forgot to mention that this is her opinion and those of the activists and not what has ever been proved in the Court of Law. On the other hand, those – Teesta Setalvad – whose body of work (or lies) the whole case against Indian PM Narendra Modi was constructed for the 2002 riots is in the crosshair of law enforcement for not just false and forged affidavits to indict Modi and others, but also misusing the moneys that were paid by the Government for the benefit of the riots victimes for personal vacations and alcohol!
The many activists in the movie and outside have been the question of “Male mindset in India”. Let us look at this a bit clearly:
- In the Nirbhaya (Jyoti’s name given by the media) case, she was accompanied by an Indian male, who was severely injured trying to save her. After her case came to light several thousands of Indian males marched to agitate against her rape and that of thousands of women. But what defines the Indian “Male Mindset”? Yes, those 6 rapists and their Defense Lawyers!
- In India, a woman is raped every 30 minutes. That is pretty bad and shameful! But consider this – “In India, a country of over 1.2 billion people, 24,206 rapes were reported in 2011. The same year in the United States, a nation of 300 million, 83,425 rapes were reported. In the United States, every 6.2 minutes a woman is raped.” Yet, India gets the epithet of the “Rape Capital of the World”! If rapes are indeed indicative of “Male Mindset” in a society, then can someone indict the American men?! And, if you have watched the documentaries on the serial killers and those who commit gruesome rape crimes in the US, you will know that what Nirbhaya went through – as inhumanly gruesome as it was – was still less than what the devils in the US society resort to every year in far large numbers! And, as yet, we have not seen any agitation by any women’s group in this country!
- In a country with very limited resources given the population, the conviction rate for rapes is one of the highest in India! “According to the Guardian, just 7% of reported rapes in the U.K. resulted in convictions during 2011-12. In Sweden, the conviction rate is as low as 10%. France had a conviction rate of 25% in 2006. Poor India, a developing nation with countless challenges, managed an impressive 24.2% conviction rate in 2012. That’s thanks to the efforts of a lot of good people — police, lawyers, victims and their families — working heroically with limited resources.” Very remarkable indeed for a society with a Male Mindset problem since most of the judiciary is still male!
- The disproportionate obsession with the smallest of crimes in India and highlight it as “the end of the world” scenario, has become endemic in Indian media and that outside of India. As Dave Prager puts it very well – It’s clear even from the newspapers that Delhi’s day-to-day dangers are nowhere near the level of even the safest American cities.The papers report every crime as if it heralds the end of days, but the fact that simple robberies make the news as often as they do suggests that bigger crimes are not occurring at a comparable rate. “Rs 1 lakh stolen from Punjab trader on bus,” shouts one headline for a seven-paragraph article — a petty crime that, while unfortunate for the victim, wouldn’t garner even a sentence in an American paper because so many bigger crimes would elbow it out of the way. What would be – despite its inhuman brutality and mind-numbing details – just another statistic in the American crime world, is along with many other rapes construed to paint the picture of Indian character itself!
Generalization and extrapolation, without context or evidence, are the works of those with crooked minds and malafide intentions. The stage is after all being set up for the construction of “Atrocity Literature”. A useful tool in the hand of Western powers to pummel the developing countries.
Atrocity Literature is a tool that has been used by the Western powers to make a case for invasion of the developed societies. This is used to “beat down” certain countries when needed to. Even though, the magnitude of the crimes and the severity as well as baseness of those crimes is far huge in the US, the incidence is restricted to the “law and order” issue as opposed to a generalized mindset. In fact, to even suggest that rape is a White or a Black or an American mindset problem would be considered racist in the US. If one goes around looking in the US, there will be enough White Supremacists and what are locally called “Rednecks” in the South, who would utter far demeaning and outrageous comments, yet – that is not considered to be a central or core ideology of the American mainstream. And this is despite the fact that many of the top leaders indeed frequent the meetings of White Supremacists and speak at them as well! One statement by Majority Whip Steve Scalise was enough to get him off the hook for having attended such a meeting. Nothing of that act rubbed on either his personality or the character of the entire Republican party!
Interestingly, the deflection mechanism for generalization of Atrocity mindset are two:
- One, meet it with the Racist charge. That is the response of the West – US and European powers.
- Two, have complete contempt for it. As in China.
The first seems to be the preserve of only the Western powers. The other societies do not get admission in the club. The second is not possible in a democracy. So, India’s goose is cooked. All you have to do – in case someone wants to question the propreity of those creating the Atrocity Literature on various issue – say, like the Rape culture in India, is to link the whole issue with “Religious Beliefs” and “Poverty”. Despite the history of witch burning and Victorian mindset along with the derogatory view of women in the Bible, the excessive rape culture in the West is not considered a Christian burden. But despite the high value of feminism in Hinduism, where the Vedas were co-written by women Sages, it strangely is a religious burden to hold for a Hindu!
It is in that context, that when the documentary juxtaposes the rapist’s cold-blooded and unrepentant rants against the tears of the victim’s parents, it looks so much more cruel. Of course, all this in the backdrop of the general poverty in both the worlds – rapist’s and the raped. To give a platform for such an inhuman devil to air his views and rants for all to hear is an invitation for larger ire of the society! Right after this controversy, on March 6th, a mob in Nagaland stormed the Central jail and dragged a rapist out and lynched him to death before putting his body up on for public display.
Is the naked outrage without any sane mind to caution the mob about the process of a proper legal and judicial method behind this murder of a rapist, a la medieval inquisitions? Is this what the activists want to promote? Is that better than imperfect yet a deeply entrenched culture of fair judiciary? In other words, are summarily handed down punitive lynching and murders by mob based on outrage an alternative to Indian legal system, which has 400% better conviction rate for rapes than in BBC’s own country?!
In a very interesting story, Suchi Dey lays out the work of Atrocity Literature and the impact that it is used to very well.
A couple of days back, I hired an Uber cab to go to a mall in Calcutta to meet some friends. The journey was about 40 minutes long and I was travelling alone. About 20 minutes into my journey, the driver asked me, “Madam, would you mind giving me a 5 star rating for this trip?”
I said, “No, I don’t mind. I will. But why do you ask suddenly?”
He replied with a sad, long face, “Madam, a few days back two lady passengers gave me extremely poor rating, dropping my rating to 2 stars.”
When I asked why, this is what he said..
“At around 11.30 PM, I picked up two lady passengers from Quest mall. They were both extremely drunk. One was falling over the other. They sat in the car and started talking about their personal stuff aloud. They were talking about things that made me uncomfortable as a man. But that was still okay. Then they opened up cans of beer and started smoking too. I warned them.. “unko bola, yeh sab nahi chalega gaadi me” but they did not listen.
At one point, it was enough for me. I asked them to stop immediately or I would call Uber office and get their accounts blocked. Then they got angry and started calling me idiot, stupid and what not. They cursed me in english too. (In his thick Bihari accent it sounded funny to an extent, but I saw him weigh his every single word and it made drop dead sense)
Then I asked him, “what did you do then?”
He said, “I made myself to drop them till their home. I did not want to. But still, I did.”
I’m sure you get the point of the story. That was my taste of a featured interview with an Indian man.
You ask why India is furious?? Here’s why
The motive and the end game solve nothing. They create a precedence and leave a trail of self-hurt. Probably even break down decades old institutions that ensured justice!
Indian Men are Devils. Now what?!
With full air time to the rapist and his defense lawyers and the accompanying rants, the viewer is led to believe that these devils represent the Indian morality’s proverbial “North Star”. Akin to saying that Shylock was the epitome and the most credible representative of Western mindset. As ridiculous, juvenile and criminal in intent and import!
But let us, for the sake of further dialog, certify all Indian men to be the epitome of Evil. Males functioning at the cutting edge of Evil as it were. Yes, we self certify ourselves as such. Now WHAT?!! …. NOW WHAT?!!
Should we throw out the males from India? Or should Indian women move from India to, say Britain? Where if they are raped, the chances that their rapist will ever be convicted are 4 times less than in India?! Yes, we hide our reporting, they don’t! We may have reported less, but convicted far more!
This is a country where invasions happened and women were the main targets of slavery and booty. From the 8th and 9th century, where Islamic invaders would taken Hindu women away, female safety was a paramount issue!
(During the invasion of Muhammad al-Qasim), invariably numerous women and children were enslaved. The sources insist that now, in dutiful conformity to religious law, ‘the one-fifth of the slaves and spoils’ were set apart for the caliph’s treasury and despatched to Iraq and Syria. The remainder was scattered among the army of Islam. At Rur, a random 60,000 captives reduced to slavery. At Brahamanabad 30,000 slaves were allegedly taken. At Multan 6,000. Slave raids continued to be made throughout the late Umayyad period in Sindh, but also much further into Hind, as far as Ujjain and Malwa. The Abbasid governors raided Punjab, where many prisoners and slaves were taken.
As rampant as it was in the initial periods, it gained momentum duirng the rule of Delhi Sultanate:
Levi states that the forcible enslavement of non-Muslims during Delhi Sultanate was motivated by the desire for war booty and military expansion. This gained momentum under the Khilji and Tughluq dynasties, as being supported by available figures.
The Mughals didn’t relent as well.
The Mughals continued the slave trade. Abd Allah Khan Firuz Jang, an Uzbek noble at the Mughal court during the 1620s and 1630s, was appointed to the position of governor of the regions of Kalpi and Kher and, in the process of subjugating the local rebels, “beheaded the leaders and enslaved their women, daughters and children, who were more than 200,000 in number.
Shahjahan, that lover of his wife who built the Taj Mahal? Yes, he was exceptionally brutal with Hindu women.
“Under Shah Jahan peasants were compelled to sell their women and children to meet their revenue requirements… The peasants were carried off to various markets and fairs to be sold with their poor unhappy wives carrying their small children crying and lamenting. According to Qaznivi, Shah Jahan had decreed they should be sold to Muslim lords.”
The slave trade continued in British time as well.
In such a backdrop, where women of the locals were nothing more than “war booty”, wouldn’t such a society, over those many centuries create structures and narratives to “protect women”. That she was to be home. That she couldn’t venture out, lest she be taken away by the local lord, Nabob, or minion of the prevalent throne. Isn’t that how it would have worked?
What was created as a defense mechanism and forcibly percolated down the social structure from the very top and enforced on every generation of men and women, is today in the face of a Western narrative of a “free woman”!
That – protecting woman – was the imperative of the times until just 65 years back! Since last 1200 years! Back then, letting her out of the house was an invitation for rape and slavery by the establishment of invaders and the Western colonial masters.
We now want a juggernaut of social mores cemented over 1200 years to suddenly turn its course 180 degrees in a matter of 20 years! Without any preparation or social change management. To understand the gravity of this change, try making a change in your family of four by simply making an annoucement of your intention to change your job and location. Heck, even a change of car will do these days in India. And then.. try managing that change through sheer outrage and anger!
That is the level of lack of context that commentators on India have these days.
Yes, freedom of every human being, specially women, is the most cherished and just way to be. That is how we should all have it. But, if you force one morality of “Woman Well-being” on over 1200 years of another morality that was ALSO for “Women Well-being” thanks in part to the atrocities of the same Western mindset – WITHOUT proper social change management – then what you get are the rants of the Defense lawyers of the rapists without any remorse or feeling of wrong-doing! It is shameful, yes. But outrage and generalization does not solve the rape and brutal treatment of another Nirbhaya!
We need a solution, mindless outrage doesn’t save a Nirbhaya
To make a difference… to effect a social transformation, that is everyone’s interest, we need to understand the nuances of this social structure and the change that it requires.
Indian society’s problem nowadays is that it is being powered by the outrage of self-righteous activism that seeks to destroy the very institutions that provide justice they shout hoarse for! In this scenario of “Outrage Activism” and consequent “Mob Justice” (if that is even a possibility) – India has become a society of Black and White. Either you are with us or against us. And this Fascist mentality comes from the citadels of supposedly Liberal India. Living in hues with apetite for a debate on counter-narrative is all but absent. This is so apparent in the top news program on Indian TV “The Newshour” by Arnab. The anchor sees there are only two ways – his way or the other’s. And he has framed his discussion even before he has heard the other side and discussed the two – or more – sides.
In this society which lives by Fascism of Self-Righteousness hoisted by outrage and anger, we are progressively destroying even the mechanisms – objective and impersonal, albeit imperfect – that ensure Justice. Is that our desired end game? It is a question for every one to ponder, and ponder sans self-importance.
Featured Image courtesy: Flickr