By Mayur Lookhar
It’s unwise to open an old wound, one so painful, that the very mention of it shakes your soul. So, when British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) decided to air the documentary on Nirbhaya, it triggered an outrage among large section of the society, the media and the political class, some of whom alleged that this was an attempt by the West to malign India. The government vowed to stop the airing in India, rather unsuccessfully with BBC advancing its release by a day. It didn’t take long for it to spread on internet, and the omnipresent social media was out venting its anger (mainly) at the remorseless accused Mukesh Singh.
As a proud Indian, I am touchy about my country being painted in bad light. So, I had my apprehensions about the documentary being aired. However, after watching this 59 minute film, I don’t think the filmmaker Leslee Udwin has embarrassed us in any sense. Like any sensible filmmaker, she’s merely documented the event, and presented all that is relevant with the tragedy. If Nirbhaya’s parents didn’t object to the world knowing about the tragedy, , I don’t think any sensible citizen or government should block its release.
As I see across news channels and social media, most people are aghast (and rightly so) at one of the accused Mukesh Singh’s remorseless attitude, who’s pinned the blame on the victim, assassinating her character, and even had the audacity to say that hanging him and his fellow convicts would only lead to more such crimes. He claims that he played no part in the rape and murder, but merely drove the bus till the victim and her friend were thrown out.
Such remorseless attitude is bound to infuriate any sane mind, but frankly speaking, I’m not surprised by his statements. What irks me more is the deplorable attitude of the defense lawyers, in particularly Mr. AP.Singh, who has not only indulged in character assassination, but even has the gumption to say that if he ever finds his daughters defying traditional beliefs, then he’d shoot them in their farmhouse.
Now, in a civil nation, even the devil has a right to defend himself, but Mr.AP Singh seems to have badly erred in trying to play the devil’s advocate here.
By defaming Nirbhaya, he has only compounded the problems for the accused men, and his poor defense was bound to fail at the first hurdle, with both the lower court and the Delhi High Court announcing death sentences for all the accused. Sadly, the Supreme Court has stayed the death sentence of two of the accused, while the juvenile will only serve three years.
All along, we held the accused as the main villains, but lawyers like AP.Singh are more dangerous to the health of the society, even to his own children. I reckon after seeing their ugly faces, these men are likely to incur the wrath of the nation.
Now this documentary has further enraged citizens who will be more vociferous in their demands to hang these accused immediately. While, considering the barbaric nature of their crimes, and their remorseless attitude, I too wish to see these monsters dead.
However, eliminating them wouldn’t put an end to such crimes. While hanging them does send a strong message to all future offenders, truth is, we can only protect our children by destroying the environment where such devil breeds.
Just listening to his tale, and those of his accomplices, (most of it narrated by Mukesh Singh), I couldn’t help but think that real evil lies in their poverty, their slums, which invariably gives rise to such monsters. These men were all time bombs just waiting to explode any moment. All of them are deep rooted in poverty, all were alcoholic, frustrated and angry at their misery.
Ram Singh, supposedly mentally fragile, ended his life after being hounded by the victim’s ghosts. (Well, so we were made to believe). His brother, Mukesh Singh claims how as a child he was beaten up by his brother, who even electrocuted him several times.
Vinay Sharma, a volatile assistant gym instructor who regularly indulged in eve teasing, brawls and once severely assaulted a man. Pawan Gupta, a teenaged fruit vendor who barely earned 300-400 a month to support his family. Then there was Akshay Thakur, who is married with a very cherubic child. While all that is known about the juvenile ends with the word juvenile.
Now there’s every possibility that the defense lawyers might have asked Mukesh Singh to play the poverty card, and hope to garner some sympathy. While these men and their poor families can be lectured, but what’s undeniable and unchangeable is the adverse conditions these men lived in. Please don’t get me wrong, not for a second am I being sympathetic to these men, including the juvenile. They all should be tortured and then hanged.
However, my real concern is the environment that breeds such monsters. Economic depression, social injustice, rejection by the civil society compounds their misery and perhaps, they think that alcohol and sex helps ease their woes for a while. Empty mind is a devil’s workshop. Educated or not, poor or rich, even the most coolest minds can fall prey to such depression.
This evil hasn’t come from the skies, it is one cultivated by our failure to change the environment that they breed in. A gutter will only give rise to cockroaches, not gems. Thus there’s an urgent need to pay attention to poverty and unemployment. Yes, education is paramount, but don’t educated men too rape women? The downtrodden just doesn’t need to be educated, but he needs to be exposed to the civil world and embraced by it.
These slums dwellers needs to be rehabilitated. Now it will take loads of patience to change their minds, their environment, but it’s a task that can no longer be ignored. Far too long, have political parties used these slums as vote banks. They’ve kept them poor, for if their condition improves, then they will stop voting for them.
Also, as civil nation we must ensure that the families of these criminals aren’t criminalised. After all, is it the poor kid’s fault that his father (Akshay Thakur) has committed such a heinous crime? Why should he be punished for it?
I was really touched by Nirbhaya’s tale of how she stopped the policeman from beating a 12-year-old boy, who snatched her purse. The boy revealed that like her, he too, wanted to enjoy the good things of life, but couldn’t as he was poor. Nirbhaya, being a great soul, bought him his desirables but with a promise that he never steals again.
Well, only God knows whether that child learnt his lessons. But just ask yourselves, would Nirbhaya hold Akshay Thakur’s wife and little child responsible for her plight? NO, not at all, then why should the civil society punish their families. Akshay Thakur’s little son deserves to be part of civil society as much as you and me. If we demonise their families, then sadly, they will only produce another Akshay Thakur, another Vinay Sharma, or another Mukesh Singh.
Leslee Udwin should be credited for presenting the sorry plight of not just Nirbhaya’s family but even those of the accused. Perhaps, some of the comments from Maria Misra may appear judgmental and stereo typed, but it’s all in measured tone. Perhaps, you’d wished that Udwin had shown more of how the entire nation came together, especially the men, to seek swift justice for Nirbhaya. Also, there was no need to show Delhi police using lathis (sticks) and tear gas to shoo away the crowd.
The most touching aspect of this film are the last words of Nirbhaya, “Sorry mamma, papa, aap logon ko bahot takleef hui (I’m sorry that you faced so much of trouble because of me)
Numb, totally numb. Imagine the kind of savagery, the pain she endured, and yet she’s apologising to her parents. Geez, I’m lost for words, tears dried up. Nirbhaya, sorry JYOTI, you truly were a nirbhay (fearless) soul.
Hai kabhi Hindustan ke itihas main aise beti paida hui ho, jo khud ke jeevan ki jyoti ko bujhakar, hamari rooh ko ujjwal kar gayi.
(Has there ever been a daughter of India who extinguished the light of her life, to enlighten the souls of others)
God bless ‘India’s Daughter’. God bless Jyoti Singh.