When the story of the brutal rape and murder of a young Indian girl broke in 2012, it was one that brought out the anger in all of us. It went beyond women’s rights – it was a clear instance where young people, men and women, were enraged enough to demand that something must be done to change the system. Their cry was loud and clear and was heard by the powers that be.
This year, as the controversy about India banning the documentary on the brutal rape and murder of Nirbhaya exploded, I found a slot of time on a Friday afternoon to watch the documentary by British film maker Leslee Udwin on You Tube.
Maybe the film maker should not have let her audience connect with the men accused of rape – it was too much to watch the driver of the bus talk about the rape and his take on independent women. But maybe , I realised despite the tears, that the story must be told. The man didn’t look like he repented but in clinical fashion, narrates a story that is not easy to listen to. Especially when he starts narrating , very matter of fact, how the men pulled out her intestines before throwing her on the road..like some carcass of a dog.
It broke my heart to listen to the narrative of the parents. Jyoti came from a traditional Indian family but her parents celebrated the fact that their daughter it seemed, was destined for great things. Her mother wears the traditional pottu and softly tells how Jyoti wanted to be a doctor. Her father, an airport worker, narrates how their daughter was always the apple of their eyes. Jyoti represented a new Indian woman, one who was a part of a changing country. And that perhaps enhanced the punishment the criminals meted out to her on that night, in that bus.
It was shocking to listen to the defense attorney trying to defend how the men were led to the rape. Educated and professional men are not expected to hold such views. He may have a client to defend but making such sweeping statements which hold women accountable as victims rather than those capable of making decisions, to me, was beyond that of a man holding high office.
Gathering between the words, it emerges that Jyoti and her boyfriend were challenged by the gang in the bus for their ride at night. The men, drunk and looking for some game that night, had been angry when the young couple told them it was none of their business. They raped her and shoved an iron rod into her to ‘teach her a lesson’. The men being interviewed for the documentary suggest that she should have lain back and let them rape her instead of protesting because maybe then, she would have been raped and not tortured!
Today, I read about a young Indian woman who changed her profile description on a marriage proposal site from the one her parents put in to one she herself drafted. She didn’t think she was exactly marriage material in true sense of the word but she for sure depicts the changing womanhood of India – and of course the entire South Asian region. Women are no longer ready to put up with the traditional view of being not heard and seen – they connect with a world that recognises them for their talent and ability and they want to see that change translated into reality back home.
It was good to see young Indian men joining the women in protests that demanded justice for Nirbhaya, as Jyoti had aptly been named. Nirbhaya in Sanskrit means unafraid. Things seem to be changing but not soon enough The documentary states that according to government estimates, one woman is raped in India every 20 minutes. Obviously, a lot needs to change and a lot needs to be done.
For now, Nirbhaya’s story will always be remembered not just for the brutality human beings are capable of, under the right conditions but for the way in which it demanded change. Not just for India but for everywhere else.
Not just for the daughters but also for the sons.