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Ban on BBC documentary India’s Daughter: Why is it not surprising at all

By Harshmeet Singh

The Government seems to be developing a special liking for the word ‘ban’. The latest in the series of absurd bans is the one on BBC’s documentary India’s Daughter, based on the Nirbhaya gang rape case.

Government’s argument on ban

What government has to say– Since one of the accused in the case said in an interview (which is a part of the documentary), “a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy” and “A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. … Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes”, it would tarnish the image of India worldwide.

Banning a documentary in India to save India’s image outside India is a funny thought in itself. It reminds us when Slumdog Millionaire invited outrage from a number of patriotic Indians because they thought that the movie is showing India in the bad light by highlighting its slums, the very slums which really and home to over 50 million people!

Keeping aside the debate on what Mukesh Singh or his lawyers said or the quality of documentary itself, the decision to ban it from airing certainly doesn’t augur well for a supposedly liberal society, if we are one.

Did the Government’s decision help?

As with most cases, the ban on the documentary only enhanced the urge of masses to watch it. Notwithstanding government’s stern stand against the documentary, BBC went ahead to pre-pone the release and uploaded it online.

Considering that the filmmaker would have needed a string of official permissions to conduct the interviews at the first place, Government’s sudden decision to ban the film, after giving the required permissions, looks all the more surprising and hurried.

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Something bad happened? Ban it!

If Government’s reactions to ‘tough situations’ are seen collectively, the decision to ban ‘India’s daughter’ wouldn’t seem surprising at all. In December 2014, a 27 year old woman was raped by a cab driver in Delhi while she was returning home. Government’s action?  Ban the company’s operations!  Surprisingly, this decision came after the company showed all the authority-signed character certificates it had collected from the driver while hiring him. With theever deteriorating law and order situation, one wonders what would be the Government’s stance if it happens in a train? Ban the entire railways? We hope not!

Censor this, Censor that, Censor it all!

The list of recent farcical bans doesn’t limit itself to the Central Government only. The ban on ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ despite removal of all the scenes containing nudity is another example of the authorities imposing their wisdom upon the entire society.

The independent.co.uk termed India as an ‘ultra conservative country’ following the ban on the movie. Considering that the censor board asked the makers of ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ to remove the word ‘lesbian’ from the movie, ban on Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Such retrospective steps and doubts on the wisdom of society certainly don’t fall in line with the plans of making India a world force.

The recent beef ban in Maharashtra which drew some sharp reactions from all sections of the society also makes it to the list. From ‘trying to breach people’s freedom of choice’ to ‘trying to press the Hindutava agenda’, several allegations were thrown at the state Government. While some reactions could be termed as coming out of an emotional burst, the short sightedness of the bill can’t be overlooked. It highlights one of the several instances where the Government has levied its opinion over millions of people who may have held a contrasting point of view.

The Government’s decision to ban the documentary gave rise to International headlines such as ‘India bans film in which rapist blames the victim’ – Al Jazeera. It is for the Government to decide what actually brought a ‘bad name’ to the country.

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