The complying paper attempts to analyze representation of Delhi through Delhi Gang Rape Case (DGRC). Delhi is the “capital territory” of India. It is the second most populous city of India with 16.3 million population. The analysis of the city will be conducted through the documentary named India’s Daughter directed by a British filmmaker Leslee Udwin and a reality crime series called Crime Patrol Dastak. The latter covered the case into two episodes of 60 minutes each which was named as A Nation Awakens.
Scope of Research
I look at the city through its depiction in both the film and the TV show. I argue that Udwin being a British follows an orientalist perspective in the depiction of Delhi.
The questions I explore include: is the representation of Delhi in the film balanced? Does Udwin stereotype Indian society? Does she sensationalize DGRC in the film? I will discuss the issues covered in the documentary and look at it from a neutral perspective which is neither Indian nor British. It will be compared with the TV show to see which of them follows a neutral approach. The TV series is currently in its twelfth year of broadcast. It is largely watched for its crime prevention advices given in the end and famous for its authenticity that became the reason to opt it for the analysis. As per a regular viewer, “They create awareness, and it’s sort of like watching the news.”
The frameworks applied to look at the documentary include orientalism and subject/object binary. The latter explores who is portrayed as subject and object helping to identify whose perspective is emphasized in the film and TV show.
I use Edward Said’s definition of orientalism who argues that West “has always been interested in knowing the culture” (Qaseem, 2013) of the east which they consider as ‘other’ since it is different from their culture. Paraphrasing (Qaseem, 2013), it is always analyzed through the lens of occident culture which is assumed to be the right one while Eastern culture is deemed backward and problematic needing to be rescued. Although Said emphasizes on Arab-Muslim culture, however, I use orientalism as a tool to look at DGRC from an outsider, western or British perspective of Delhi.
Additionally, I also look at the ways in which Delhi is stereotyped in the film. “A stereotype is a generalized belief about the qualities and characteristics of a particular group of people”.  It can be positive or negative. “The stereotypes are formed in a social context through a combination of observing others, learning and mental processes”.  The continuous representation of a particular group in a certain way creates a preconception or prejudice about them.
Delhi Gang Rape Case (DGRC)
A 23 year old female medical student who media named as Nirbhaya, was brutally assaulted and gang raped by six men in a moving private bus on the night of 16th December 2012 after returning from cinema with a male friend Awindra Pratap Pandey. He was also violently beaten up by them. They were later thrown out of the bus, completely naked.
Consequently, there was a huge outcry in the city. Countrywide demonstrations were carried out the next day demanding immediate action against the gruesome act. Pandey survived while Nirbhaya died on 29th December 2012 due to serious internal injuries after which the outrage worsened. The protesters demanded all six perpetrators to be hanged. Resultantly, the case was taken under Fast Track Court and four of the accused (Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta) were convicted for death sentence in September 2013. The fifth accused rapist, Ram Singh, committed suicide in Tihar Jail in March 2013 while the last accused was a juvenile hence sent to a juvenile home for three years. It is pertinent to mention that the adult convicts have obtained stay in execution of their death penalty and the Delhi High Court is still to pass the final verdict on their death sentence.
Crime Patrol Dastak – A Nation Awakens
Crime Patrol Dastak is the third season of the docudrama series Crime Patrol (covering many newsworthy cases) hosted by Anoop Soni. With the motto of “Crime never pays”, they aim to create awareness for crime prevention. It is based on factual reconstruction of the story focusing how the case was solved by the police. It uses voiceover done by the host. The episode usually begins and ends with his appearance narrating the causes and prevention of that crime.
The dual episode coverage of DGRC relates the story of 16th December 2012 from both Nirbhaya’s and rapists’ perspective as what they were doing before and after crime. It also covers significant aspects of victims’ families, public’s opinion as well as role of doctors, politicians, media, police, judges and law commission set for DGRC.
The Documentary – India’s Daughter
India’s Daughter is a 59 minute documentary on DGRC directed by Leslee Udwin and co-produced by BBC and NDTV, a mainstream Indian news channel. It includes extensive interviews of parents of Jyoti Singh (real name of the victim used in the documentary), her friend Satendra, the rapist Mukesh Singh and his parents, families of Thakur and the juvenile, the defense lawyers and some other significant people relevant to DGRC.
Mukesh Singh’s comments were perceived humiliating and disturbing by the nation leading to a huge uproar in the country which caused a debate on whether to screen the documentary in India or not. People were enraged to seeing the culprit shameless and blaming the victim for being raped. Consequently, “the Indian government banned the film over concerns that Singh’s comments would cause “apprehension of public disorder”” (Iyenger, 2015).
Subject & Object
The main subject in the film is Mukesh Singh instead of the rape victim in whose name the film was made. It is largely based on rapists’ background, life and Mukesh’s viewpoints. Although the film also depicts Jyoti’s life portraying her as the subject, however she is largely discussed as an object through the graphic details of maltreatment done to her. Her body is objectified in the discussion of her injuries and how they were caused. The language as well as gestures of defense lawyers, depicting what a girl is and how Jyoti was raped, also objectify her body. “She looked like a cow looks after giving birth to a calf” as the patrolman Raj Kumar said in the film. At times, the film appears as a platform for Mukesh to justify his acts (portrayed as a subject) when the final verdict of his penalty is due. As opposed to the film, the TV program depicts both the victims as the subjects however Jyoti remains the prime subject in both episodes. The facts of attack on and injuries of Jyoti are not explicitly described and no character was particularly objectified.
Analysis & Discussion
At the outset, the script of the documentary states that “a woman is raped in India every 20 minutes and most of them are unreported” presenting a problem prevailing in Indian society. The filmmaker chose to work on a significant social issue of rape but does rape only happen in eastern countries? Has the West been successful in eradicating the problem of rape from its societies? According to The Guardian, “between 2009/10 and 2011/12, there were an estimated 78,000 victims of rape per year in England and Wales – 69,000 females and 9,000 males” and on average 60,000 to 95,000 each year. While in India, “nearly 68,000 rape cases were registered across the country during 2009-11”, first post reported. This British perspective of rape highlighted in the film portrays Delhi as an ‘other’ portraying rape only happens in this city. Although Udwin has admitted in an interview, “rape is a pattern not only in India, but all over the world”, she has chosen a Third World country to work on this issue.
On the contrary, the script of the TV show is more inclined towards elaborating the facts of the case. However, the TV program also questions safety and security of the city as well as the role of its citizens, police and government. In the end, they have also critiqued nothing has changed yet and mentioned the rapes occurred after DGRC till its broadcast. The whole script of the host appears neutral attempting to create awareness.
Both media products have used original clippings of the protest inserted at different scenes. The very first footage added in the film shows women being mishandled, thrown and beaten up by policemen. This projection establishes the stereotypical treatment of women in Delhi, something Udwin also portray in the film. It is shown to the viewer in the beginning of the film, creating a bias about Delhi and its culture.
Conversely, the protest scenes in the TV program also show men, being beaten up and getting injured during the clash with police. It also follows an unbiased voice over portraying Delhi’s positive and negative simultaneously, stating such cases have been happening for a very long time but now the nation has awakened and supporting the victim by enforcing government to take action. While it also criticizes system’s loopholes and government’s apathy towards rape.
The documentary depicts Jyoti as a modern girl wearing jeans while out, working in night shifts and studying in a modern college. Besides, Satendra, talks about the liberal background of Jyoti and her family. The comments of other interviewees create impression that this is what happens in Delhi to girls who defy traditional patriarchal social norms. Conversely, Jyoti was shown being donned in a shalwar qameez on the night of the incident in the TV show.
The film looks biased towards the projection of Delhi as it has very few glimpses of modern Delhi as compared to the footages of poor areas. The fewer moments of modern city includes the shot of Delhi High Court, Jyoti’s college and the call center. While the shot of Saket Mall, Hotel 37 and roads of Delhi are mostly shot in the dark with gloomy lights. According to Deccan Chronicle, Pandey (Jyoti’s friend) has also claimed the film unbalanced.
In contrast, Delhi is represented as more civilized and modern city in the TV show. The host is filmed on the roads of Delhi and the background is always of clean roads, cars, bridges and buildings. However, the room of the rapists shown is small, dark, and dirty with floor sitting, shabby painted walls and dumped broken furniture at the back. Poor areas are shown as their homes. Thus, the show appears to be more balanced.
Furthermore, it is evident that Udwin has chosen to depict India as a poverty-stricken country. The shots of Ramdas Slum – residence of four of the rapist, Dwarka – residence of Jyoti Singh, her old village, juvenile’s home are all shot in day light with zoomed, wide and focused camera angles used on minute details highlighting the poor conditions of them and establishing the difference of living standard between Jyoti (lower-middle class) and rapists (lower class).
As Amodh Kanth, Head of Prayas, NGO for Rape Victims and Juveniles, mentions in the film “50% of India’s population is living almost below poverty line” which supports the filmmakers orientalist’s approach of stereotyping India as a poor country.
There is a footage inserted in between SOTs of Delhi’s Additional Deputy Commissioner, Pramod Kushwa and Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association, Kavita Krishanan, with a gloomy background score unfolding the miserable condition with visuals of donkey carts, Delhi’s station where people are shown carrying luggage on heads and shoulder, policemen travelling on horses, a veiled women travelling on a bicycle rickshaw and people sitting on the street in a row with flies on their faces. The latter is parallel to the stereotypical representation of Africa’s poverty as “the well known shots of flies on the faces of children and some adults alike” (Mahadeo & Mckinney, 2007).
There are also shots of Ravidas camp where naked children are playing and bathing in open area. Half naked adults are also shown bathing at one place devoid of shed. These shots depict an archetypical image of poverty.
Amodh Kanth who runs Prayas NGO also talks about the miserable conditions in which the juvenile has been brought up supported by the visual glimpses of street children. Furthermore, Satendra narrates how Jyoti made a child, who stole her purse, promise to never steal again and the reconstruction of the entire tale is a portrayal of poverty. According to a BBC article of UK poverty statistics, “in 2011-12, 2.3 million UK children (17%) lived in homes with substantially lower than average income. This rises to 27% (3.5 million) if measured after housing costs are paid. Children’s campaigners say the true figure is higher and that 300,000 more children live in poor homes than in the previous year”. In the same year, as reported by Hindustan Times (an Indian newspaper), “poverty in India declined to a record 22% in 2011-12, the Planning Commission disclosed. The number of poor is now estimated at 269.3 million, of which 216.5 million reside in rural India”. It is clear from these facts that poverty rate is increasing in UK while it is consistently decreasing in India over the last decade “with the levels dropping from 37.2% in 2004-05 to 29.8% in 2009-10” (Rao, 2013).
Moreover, the poor living conditions of the rapists are not only showed in the visuals but also discussed in detail in the interviews of their destitute families through the talk of their means of survival, not particularly relevant to the film.
The discussion with the interviewees strongly establishes that lower class men commit crimes like rape. It is told by Mukesh Singh that almost all of the six accused used to loiter on the streets. Chasing and harassing women in public spaces, arguing about who they can overpower was their normal routine. This account of the rapists is related to Shilpa Phadkey’s description of Tapori, “usually a youngish lower-class male who spends much of his time hanging out at a street corners with others like him”. The stereotyping of poor lower class men being involved in street crimes and dangerous to women in public spaces is discussed in Phadkey’s essay where “women described lower class man as a threat to their mobility in public spaces”. In the film, Dr. Sandeep Govil, The Jail Psychiatrist of the Rapists, asserts that “they have been doing such crimes and easily getting away with that. So whenever there is a chance they could trap a woman, they do it.” This stereotyping of lower class men depicts Delhi as a dangerous place for women.
Mukesh Singh in his interview said, “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. About 20 per cent of girls are good.” This means that the rapist decides who is a good woman and who is a public woman, the one out after 7:30 without family members is considered a bad – something that was also stated by both the defense lawyers. By this rationale, anything can happen to her and she doesn’t deserve any protection. It is elaborated that “the public women is not so much directly a threat to ‘good’ women as much as a warning to them of the consequences of violating the rules, namely, if they break the rules, they are no longer worthy of ‘protection’ from society” (Phadkey, 2009). As the defense lawyer ML Sharma stated in the film, “a girl is precious like a diamond and if you put it on the street, certainly the dog will take it out. You cannot stop it”. This projects Delhi as a place where women has no right to safety if she goes out without family members after evening.
India’s Daughter also talks about gender differences. The discourse correctly portrays gender inequality as a major cause of rapes however the way it is represented in the documentary sensationalizes the issue. For example, “we have the best culture and there is no place of women in our culture,” said by lawyer ML Sharma. The discourse on gender inequality also ‘others’ Delhi where the problem exists.
Gender inequality is a problem that is not limited to India. It is a global issue and feminists have been protesting against it. It might have diminished but not been completely eradicated from the West. Women to date face gender inequality at work places. According to UK Feminista compiled statistics, “approximately 70% of people in national minimum wage jobs are women with 10% of gender pay gap in full time jobs”. This difference is a result of “women’s shorter tenures at the top, their tendency to lead smaller companies or gender discrimination” (Murray, 2014). Women are also working below their potential as “they are more likely to be promoted into support positions such as communications or human resources instead of those with more influence” (Covert, 2014). Moreover, gender difference in UK also persists at higher levels. “In 2013, Bloomberg News analysis of the highest paid executives at S&P 500 companies found that the women on the list made 18 percent less than male counterparts” and as per New York Times analysis, “among the 200 best-paid chief executives in the country, just 11 are women” (Covert, 2014).
The documentary mainly focuses on what patriarchal mentality is while the voiceover in the TV show stressed that patriarchal mindset needs to be changed. According to Former Chief Justice, Leila Seth interviewed in the film, “the constitution provides for [sic] equality but it doesn’t happen because the men don’t allow it to happen and they feel thats [sic] their hold on women and also, its because of the historical tradition of patriarchy which has been, over the years, embedded into men and into [sic] women.” Udwin does not show alternative viewpoints, thereby helping to construct a singular stereotypical portrayal of the situation.
Dr. Maria Misra, writer and historian at Oxford University also highlights in the film that women are not treated well in India and counts the crimes against women; rape, acid attacks, domestic violence, pre-birth sex selection and fetus killing. As per UK Feminsta, “up to 3 million women and girls across the UK experience rape, domestic violence, stalking, or other violence each year”. Her interview in the documentary is an example of orientalism where a westerner is reviewing problems of an eastern country. “On average two women a week are killed by a violent partner or ex-partner in UK” (UK Feminista). These facts and figures elucidate that the home country of Udwin is not devoid of the same issues she is highlighting in the film.
Apart from the above, the question arises, why the other three convicts were not interviewed and if they were, why their interviews are not included in the documentary? Why is it only Mukesh Singh’s interview? Udwin told Dawn Newspaper in an interview, “it has not been easy for me to sit with five rapists in Tihar (jail in Delhi). One of them named Gaurav had raped a five-year-old girl. When I asked him why, he said she belonged to a beggar’s family and therefore her life had no value.” Considering two of those five are Gaurav and Mukesh Singh, the rest of the three interviewed rapists are supposedly Pawan, Akshay and Vinay (other convicts of DGRC) who were also interviewed yet excluded from the documentary as they might not supported the image of Delhi that she was projecting. Further to this, Udwin’s states in an interview, “I shot over 26 hours of footage with Mukesh Singh over three days” (Sharma, 2015). Nevertheless, she still chose to add only controversial statements. The filmmaker’s bias becomes visible by the selection of material she chose to highlight.
The motive of the filmmaker “was to tell the world to follow India’s example of protesting against rape and forcing the government to amend the status quo” (Iyengar, 2015). While from the two selected media elements, this motive was evident in the TV show rather than in the documentary.
Besides, as it is a UK-India co production, the target audiences are both Indians and British. Udwin’s selection of the topic win her target audience. She achieved her audience in India even before the release as the DGRC is a sensitive subject for them. Despite being banned there, it is still discussed, whether negatively or positively, on social media platforms. West audience was achieved as they prefer watching issues of Third World Nations. A study conducted by Greg Philo revealed that British news channels always show “negative images” of the Third World and news reports containing disturbing images of developing countries, strongly effects and creates sympathy in the audience. To gain viewership in the West, she has highlighted issues like rape, gender inequality and poverty that are likely to watch by the British audience. According to the hypodermic needle theory, media directly effects its audiences and shapes their minds which Udwin has also done by creating a biased image of India. In a review of India’s Daughter written by Claire Cohen, he asserts that India has failed to become a modern nation and they are hiding the truth by banning the documentary. Thereby, India is till deemed as a backward country.
Excluding the bits and pieces of Jyoti Singh’s parents and the Former Chief Justice Leila Seth, Delhi is projected as a dangerous city for women where violence and sex crimes are a normal trend specifically for those who defy norms. Furthermore, her projection of Delhi stereotypes it as a poverty-stricken and backward city which follows traditional norms and customs of patriarchal society. Women are suppressed and considered inferior there. It also stereotypes lower class men to be hooligans and sex offenders.
Besides above, the filmmaker also hints at other issues prevailing in Delhi including acid attacks, child labor and prostitution. On the contrary, A Nation Awakens focused only on DGRC.
It is also clear that Leslee Udwin purposefully chose to include sensationalized statements and throughout used orientalist perspective in the production as well as representation of the city.
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All the rest are screen shots taken from the videos.