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In Parliament, intense debate over Delhi gang-rape documentary

Source: PTI
March 04, 2015 15:31 IST
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The Rajya Sabha saw a heated debate on Wednesday after Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that the government that a restraining order has been order against the broadcast of BBC documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ on the December 2012 Delhi gang rape.

"When I heard about the documentary I was hurt. Under no circumstances should this be telecast. So we got a restraining order from the court," Singh said. Observing that not only Parliament but the entire nation was feeling ashamed over it, Singh said he has already spoken to the information and broadcasting ministry and told them to explore ways to ensure that the documentary was not broadcast even abroad.

Members of Samajwadi Party in Rajya Sabha, including Jaya Bachchan who had earlier trooped into the Well with other women opposition members, later staged a walkout.

VOTE: Should the Delhi gang-rape documentary be aired?

Spelling out the conditions under which permission was granted to producers Leslee Udwin and Anjali Bhushan to shoot the documentary, the home minister said that they could interview only those prisoners who had given written consent. They were also told to show complete footage to jail authorities so that there is no breach of prison security norms.

Observing that the producers were required to take approval from jail authorities before telecast, he said the authorities' permission was also required for either publishing of a research paper or releasing the documentary film which should have been made for purely social purposes without any commercial interest. However, they had not done so and the conditions under which they were permitted to shoot were violated, Singh said. "Our government condemns the incident of December 16, 2012 in the strongest possible terms and will not allow any attempt by any individual, group or organisation to leverage such unfortunate incidents for commercial benefit.

"The respect and dignity of women constitute a core value of our culture and tradition. Our government remains fully committed to ensuring safety and dignity of women," Singh said. "Now, it has come to notice that on 8 March 2015, BBC Four is going to telecast this documentary film. The government has taken necessary legal action and obtained a restraining order from the court disseminating the contents of the film," the minister said.

"It came to the notice of the jail authorities that the permission conditions have been violated and hence a legal notice was issued to them on April 7, 2014 to return the unedited footage within 15 days and also not to show the film as it violates the permission conditions," Singh said.

Subsequently, the documentary film was shown to the jail authorities where it was noticed that it depicted the convict's comments "which are highly derogatory and are an affront to the dignity of women".

The home minister said it was also noticed that the film shown was the edited version and not the unedited one. "Hence, they were requested to provide full copy of the unedited film shootout for further review by the authorities and asked not to release/screen the documentary till it is approved by the authorities," he said.

The home minister was frequently interrupted in Rajya Sabha by members who asked whether the government has taken action against the officers who allowed such an interview and why the gang-rape convict was not yet hanged.

Singh said while it was for the court to decide on the punishment of the convicts, he promised look into the circumstances in which the interview was allowed.

In the Rajya Sabha, nominated MP Anu Aga said, "The reality is that what that man (convict) spoke reflects the view of many men in India. Why are we shying away from reality? Why are we not confronting the issue? We should confront the issue.” “It is not just the view of the man in the prison. Let us be aware of it. Let us not pretend that all is well."

Noted lyricist and nominated member Javed Akhtar said that he has heard this kind of views in this House. "It's good that this documentary has been made. Crores of men in India have now come to know that they think like a rapist. If it is sounding dirty, they have to think," he said.

Communist Party of India-Marxist's T N Seema called for a change in mindset as she rued that MPs and ministers also come out with derogatory statements against women and their respective parties should take note of them and act. She said that the issue was discussed only when some tragic incident happens and then it is forgotten and added that for last three years, Nirbhaya fund has remained unused.

Bahujan Samaj Party Chief Mayawati said that a time-bound inquiry should be conducted, which should give its report in 10-15 days and the guilty officers, who granted permission for the interview, nailed. She also congratulated the home minister for taking swift steps to stop the broadcast of the interview.

Jaya Bachchan of the Samjwadi Party rued that even after three years since the Nirbhaya gang rape, women are yet to get justice and asked the home minister to spell out the measures taken for women safety.

Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman congratulated the both home ministry and information and broadcasting ministry for their "speedy intervention" into the matter. Taking note of the sense of the outrage in the House, she said it was an issue on which there is no division. While it true that many men think on the lines of what the convict said, there were also many men too who felt this should not have happened, she said.

"Speedy dispensation of justice is required in this matter," she said agreeing with Jaya Bachchan's concern about justice in the Nirbhaya case.

Ambika Soni of the Congress wanted to know how the interviewer got permission to talk to the convict inside jail. Noting that she was told that permission was given as a study case to get inputs to deal with criminality against women and not to share the details in public arena, Soni asked, "Why was it necessary to give permission to a foreign channel to do this study?"

As some members from the treasury benches tried to point out that the permission was given during the United Progressive Alliance's tenure, Soni asked them "not to politcise" the matter. Her party colleague from Maharashtra Rajani Patil took umbrage to the role of media in saying they should not have published the content of the news.

Raising the issue in the Lok Sabha during Zero Hour, Ranjeet Ranjan of the Congress said the documentary equals to the "repeat of the rape" and the decision to show it on International Women's day is like humiliating women.

The documentary, she said, is commercialisation of rape and should by no means be allowed to be telecast. "We must spare a thought for parents of the victim and the trauma they will suffer," she said.

 Expressing concern over the issue, P K Shrimathi Teacher of the CPI-M demanded ban on the documentary which she said was "very shocking and shameful" for the entire society.

Bharatiya Janata Party’s Kirron Kher said there was a need to change the male mindset in the country through education. Her party colleague Minakshi Lekhi saw in it an attempt to tarnish the image of India globally and said already such attempts have affected tourism in the country.

Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut sought action against the concerned jail officials. Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai, speaking as an AIADMK member, said it was the duty of Parliament to protect rights of women and wanted government to make a statement.         

In response to CPI-M’s A Sampath, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu assured the House that he would ask the law minister to take up with the Bar Council of India the issue of "vulgar" talk by some lawyers in the documentary.

Image: BJP's Kirron Kher joins the discussion in Parliament  

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