The "India rape" story has almost replaced the "India rising" story, explains Shivam Vij. It is the government's job to deal with the PR damage as it affects the India's image, tourism dollars and economic investment.
It is understandable that the government is red-faced about a BBC documentary "India's Daughter," about the 16 December 2012 gang-rape and murder case that shook Delhi and the world.
The Indian government clearly gave permission to the filmmaker, Leslee Udwin, to interview the rapists in jail. Now that it became a big global film, with the rapists showing no remorse and blaming the woman for her rape and murder, it has become embarrassing for the Indian government.
The government banned the film on Indian TV and got YouTube to make it inaccessible in India, yet there are many ways to find things on the Internet and millions of people have watched it.
Holding a mirror to Indian society
When Udwin emailed me over a year ago, asking me to be interviewed with activist Kavita Krishnan, I agreed. After the interview, both Krishnan and I had felt stupid about the kind of questions we had been asked. I was relieved to know that the filmmaker chose not to include my interview in a controversial film! Yet, when I saw the documentary, I couldn't thank Udwin enough. It is such a powerful film that India is angry about being shown the mirror. This is great, because as in the December 2012 protests across India, it brings the focus back to the issue of violence against women in India.
I was surprised to see that it isn't just the government but also many sane voices, including that of Kavita Krishnan, who are opposed to this film. Most of the opposition is embarrassing, displaying nativism and post-colonial insecurities about how the rest of the world sees us. I don't think the film titillates, or gives the rapists a platform and thus propagates misogyny, or that is a patronizing London view, or a "civilizing mission." It is not sensational, and it is far from insensitive.
The unspeakable truth
Some Indian news channels are crying themselves hoarse about the film, completely missing the point that Indian news TV is all noise while the BBC broadcasts a great documentary on a big event in contemporary India. Perhaps it is envy, because it shows the lack of quality documentary filmmaking in India.
The one rapist who was interviewed has had his words described by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as "unspeakable." It is the unspeakable truth of what many men in India think about women that we need to hear. It will make us deeply uncomfortable - but unless we hear it, we would be lulled into complacence. We'll think all is well, as we tend to in India, all the time.
Hearing the rapists is important because unless we hear rape culture spelled out in its ugly reality, we are not going to be able to counter it. Thank you, Leslee Udwin, for this powerful film that has brought attention back to the ugly truth about many Indian men.
Shivam Vij is a journalist with the Indian news website Scroll.in. He tweets as @DilliDurAst.