NEW DELHI — A magistrate’s court in New Delhi upheld a police complaint Wednesday blocking the showing of an hour-long documentary film in India about a fatal gang rape in 2012.
“India’s Daughter” was set to air on the BBC, other international channels and the Indian cable news channel NDTV on Sunday, International Women’s Day. But because of the intense interest in the film, and the Indian government’s moves to quash it, the BBC moved up the premiere to Wednesday evening in Britain.
It will not appear in India as had been planned.
Filmmaker Leslee Udwin decried the Indian government’s blackout of the film, calling it “foolish.”
“I feel as saddened today as I felt when I sat with those rapists,” Udwin said at a news conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. “They are trying to silence the voices that are fighting for the rights of women. It is very ill-conceived.”
The Indian government continued to criticize the BBC’s airing of the documentary on Thursday, but the documentary had already made its way onto YouTube.
Written excerpts from the film released this week caused a storm of controversy because one of the assailants, Mukesh Singh, appeared to be blaming the victim for her death, even as he denied playing a role in the Dec. 16, 2012, attack.
Singh said in the interview that the victim and her male friend made a mistake by fighting back when they were attacked on a private bus while traveling home from a Delhi shopping mall. He said a “decent girl” would not have been out at 9 p.m.
“When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back,” Singh said in the film. “She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’ and only hit the boy.”
According to court documents, Singh, four other men and a juvenile attacked the young couple after they boarded the bus, beating the man and taking turns raping the “helpless” woman. She died from her wounds at a hospital in Singapore several days later.
An Indian court sentenced four of the assailants to death by hanging in September 2013. One had earlier hanged himself in prison. The assailant who was a juvenile at the time of the rape is in a rehabilitation home.
“India’s Daughter” tells the story of the horrific night and its aftermath through interviews with Singh, the victim’s parents, lawyers and others. It also chronicles the street protests that followed, which riveted international attention on the problem of violence against women in India.
The film was debated in India’s Parliament on Wednesday, with Home Minister Rajnath Singh declaring that “under no circumstances” would the documentary be broadcast in India. Singh vowed that the Indian government would not allow anyone to “leverage such unfortunate incidents for commercial benefits.”
Dibang, an Indian journalist who serves as co-producer on the film, said they were considering their legal options to combat the ban. Filmmakers interviewed the rapist in an attempt to better understand what happened that night, not to give him a high-profile platform, he said.
“We don’t understand the government’s objections to the film,” he said. “In a democracy like ours, what’s happened is shameful.”