It is a shame that at a time when India is projecting itself as a world super power and a country when women are seen heading top corporate is unable to tackle the issue of women safety and issues related with it.
The latest being the “India’s Daughter” a documentary film that has kicked up a storm based on the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder of the 23 old physiotherapy women, the woman was named by media as “Nirbhaya” or fearless, and became a symbol for India’s fight to check crimes against women. The documentary features the opinion of one of the convicts of the gang rape in Delhi were interviewed in prison in Delhi where he awaits his death sentence.
India’s daughter is part of the BBC’s ongoing story Ville series directed by Film maker Leslee Udwin, the Documentary film was to be broadcasted on March 8 commemorating International Women’s Day in India on the popular New Delhi Television (NDTV) that was banned Nirbhaya documentary saying that it is not in the interest of the country and feared a public outcry.
Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) obtained a court order on 4 March 2015, banning the broadcast justifying that it aims at protecting and ensuring that the sensibilities of women in the country is paramount.
The Filmmaker Leslee Udwin, who directed India’s Daughter, has rejected claims by the Indian Government that the documentary contained offensive remarks towards women, and could cause a public outcry as told by her in BBC interview.
Brushing aside Indian protests, the BBC has telecasted the documentary; India has no jurisdiction over BBC 4 which has already aired the documentary.
Mass Media, especially Cinema has historically played a huge and a pivotal role in shifting mindsets of the masses and classes in India and shaping our society. Women have been always projected as a weak gender and even in films if a woman is raped the only option left for her to kill herself, largely believed that she brings shame to the family and it is a social stigma to report the issue seeking justice.
Whenever films have touched on sensitive issues show casing hard realities of Indian society be it oppression of women, child marriage, dowry deaths, women trafficking so on…. have been center of controversy and on many occasions banned.
Indian cinema and films were recently showcased worldwide celebrating 100 years of cinema with pomp and gaiety not only in India but around the world. The popular love stories of India have carved a niche of itself worldwide and successfully able to entertain and enthrall audience worldwide not only in India but in US, UK, Russia, Canada, Poland, Middle East and African countries, but hard hitting movies run into controversy.
The world was shocked and horrified by the Delhi gang rape in 2012 when the victim was gang raped and brutally thrown out of a moving bus, the incident open the Pandora box and the loop holes in the system and the way we pursue women safety and security.
The outraged that followed across the nation after the incident forced the Delhi Police and judicial system to enforce stringent laws and punish the culprits.
The incident caught the attention worldwide was able to put tremendous pressure on the authorities on safety and security issues and demanded measure the curb the menace.
Various mediums and platforms openly began discussing the issue of women’s safety in India worldwide.
Dr, Vikrant Kishore a documentary film maker and Faculty of Communication and Media Production, University of New Castle, Australia, said that documentary that brings to fore the heart wrenching story of Rape crimes against women in India and how we how we as a society treat women.
He personally feels that the documentary is interesting way it has interwoven various point of views, especially of victims parents, the perpetrator of the crime, their family members, and the defence lawyers. He feel it is a timely documentary to initiate a discussion and debate about the heinous rape crimes, which we hear on a daily basis in India, since the release and online posting of the documentary India’s daughter. There has been huge online response through various social media and networking sites, most of them praising the film and few trying to rip it apart calling it a shoddy piece of work and some even labelling it sensationalistic and full of lies.
Dr. Kishore says he does not find it sensationalistic, as it is in the nature of the subject of the documentary that was ought to make people take notice, also probably the Indian media picked up the story of the documentary and brought the discussion on prime time television, which attracted major attention for the documentary. In this instance the Indian government thought it would tarnish the reputation of India. But then why was the Indian government silent on another BBC documentary on the same rape case that was produced in 2013, which was rather harshly titled – India: A Dangerous Place To Be A Woman?
But if the Indian governments objection to the documentary and the filmmaker is about the non compliance of the rules and regulations of the country to conduct the shoot… then the government has full right to take any action against the documentary.
Professor Karuna Kaushik, feels that it is a shame India being the largest democracy is trying to curtail freedom and power of social media. After the Film was uploaded on Youtube and went viral it was banned and youngsters began a discussion on social media. For a healthy democracy a open media and a platform to air ones views is vital, she adds.
Shiva Ranjini, a school teacher working in Bangalore also a mother of young daughter fears the safety of her child. Recalling the incident where a young six year old girl was raped in school, she feels that the government to wake up to the horrendous crime and tackle the issue seriously rather banning films.
Unfortunately, fearing a public uproar and outlawed by the Indian authorities on the grounds of “objectionable content” and rapists are being glorified in the documentary the issues snow balled into controversy, the Indian government directed Youtube India to block the Video in India.
Activists of leading Women’s organisation All India Mahila Samskruthika Sanghatane (AIMSS) leader Poornima staged protest against Nirbhaya case convict Mukesh Singh in Mysore on International Women’s day, they also opposed the permission to interview Singh as part of a documentary on Nirbhaya.
According to her interviewing and documenting the convict’s version is encouraging the convict to shift the blame on the victim? “This indicates the psyche of the male dominated society, which should be protested,” she said. The documentary was made with prior permission and full support of victim’s parents, who wanted to expose the atrocious crime and the loop holes in the system. Even after three years incidents like rapes have not come down. According to the National Crime Records Bureau statistics 93 women are raped in India every day and child sexual abuse occurs at horrifying levels and is massively under reported.
The government is now questioning the permission documents that the filmmaker obtained to get the jailhouse interview and reviewing procedures for access those in jail, which could set a dangerous precedent.
Bar Council of India did not waste any time and reacted quickly and issued a show-cause notice to defence lawyers of four convicts in the Delhi Gang Rape 2012 for their offensive remarks in the film.
Babita Menon, a young medical student by feels ashamed that she is living in a country that shy’s away from the reality that the horrendous crime is part of the society and takes place every day.
She strongly advocates that the documentary should be viewed by every citizen of the country to understand and get a clear perspective on the mind set of men who think raping women is their birth right. In a civilized society creating an awareness and further discussion is necessary to challenge many notions and change the culture, the documentary will not result in increase in the number of rapes. It can facilitate more and more women to come forward and report cases of rapes as more and more women break the cycle of shame.
The convict openly speaks his mind and expresses his views that is deep rooted in our society and reflects Indians culture. Babita strongly we need to change the attitudes of police, who perpetuate the “shame on the woman” myth by discouraging women to report rapes. We need to change laws to reflect the equal status of women in India and provide the resources they need to protect themselves.
Banning books, films or controversial speech has long been a government tactic to suppress free speech and limit scrutiny. This is not the first time a film is banned in India and public outcry is seen, many protests were organized against the film Slumdog Millionaire that won Oscar awards and internationally appreciated. The public protest and outcry was that India was showcased badly and on the grounds that it intentionally exploited the poor for the purposes of profit, also arguing that the title Slumdog Millionaire is offensive, demeaning, and insulting to their dignity.
India’s Victory at the International Court of Justice is the World’s Challenge to the Status Quo
For the past week, both the Indian and British media have rigorously covered the story of the re-election of India’s justice Dalveer Bhandari to the bench of judges in the International Court of Justice on Tuesday, November 21. That the Indian judge retained his position on the bench was not the sole reason for the story’s extensive coverage; his reappointment combined with the fact that it happened at the expense of the United Kingdom’s spot on the bench is why the story is making so many rounds… and no, that many Indians may see it as some sort of a comeback against Britain’s 200 years of colonial rule over the country is not the reason why it matters. It matters because this is the first time since 1946 that the UK has no judge on the ICJ bench, and that signals possible changes in the way international bodies govern and are governed. So what does this mean for India, for the UK and for the world at large?
The International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice or the ICJ was established in 1945 by the United Nations as its principal judicial branch and is located in The Hague, Netherlands. Its job is to settle legal disputes between states that are submitted to it and give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it. The court comprises of a total of 15 judges that are elected to 9 year terms by way of voting from both the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) separately. One third of the court is re-elected every three years, and no two judges of the same nationality may assume positions on the bench simultaneously. However, the rule that led to the deadlock between the candidates from India and UK is that a candidate must obtain an absolute majority in both the UNGA and the UNSC in order to be elected to the bench.
UN General Assembly vs UN Security Council: The Race in Numbers
On November 9 and November 13, in seven rounds of voting justice Bhandari secured between 110 and 121 votes from a total of 193 in the UNGA against figures between 68 and 79 secured by his British counterpart Sir Christopher Greenwood. However, among the UNSC, justice Bhandari lost out by 5 votes to 9 in favour of Sir Greenwood. In the face of uncertainty, the UK then pushed for a ‘joint conference’ under the rules of the court between the UNSC and the UNGA. Under the ‘joint conference’ three countries from each side then determine the name for the court. However, the rules do not mention the procedure to select these countries and understandably so, since the option was last invoked in 1921. Fearing not enough support from the council, criticism for invoking the charter, and harming its friendly as well as economic relations with India, the UK eventually chose to not follow through with the process and withdrew its candidature for the post. In the end, India secured the seat with a total of 183 votes out of 193 at the UNGA and all 15 at the UNSC.
There is More to the Victory than Meets the Eye
The result means different things for the parties involved and also for the balance of power and influence between countries. For the UK, there are hardly any positives to take away from this result amid already turbulent times. Many in the British media have viewed this loss as ‘a blow to British international prestige’ and the country’s acceptance of a diminishing role in global affairs. This was the UK’s second major defeat at the ICJ after it lost a vote by a margin of 94 to 15 countries in June when the UNGA voted in favour of referring the question of decolonisation and self-determination of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean to the ICJ, which is currently under its control. Many within and outside the country have also been quick to blame Brexit for the situation in which they find themselves today, arguing that the other states, especially the ones within the European Union would have been less willing to snub the UK had the UK chosen not to leave the alliance. In the face of defeat, British diplomats have continued to maintain that they are happy that their close friend India has won, but have also not been shy of hiding their natural disappointment at their own loss.
For India, their victory in having a judge win the contest in getting elected to the ICJ bench against a permanent member of the UNSC is more symbolic than anything else. It reinforces India’s image at the highest stage as a major emerging global player and its ability to bring in greater reforms that push for more involvement from developing countries and emerging economies. Also, having a judge on the ICJ bench gives India an edge over Pakistan in the case involving former Indian Navy Officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on the charges of espionage. True, a judge on the ICJ does not represent his/her country or their interests. However, as suggested by repeated criticism the court receives for being biased in favour of the states who appoint the judges, having a judge on the panel is certainly an asset for any country, no matter what the rules dictate on paper.
The most important takeaway from the whole episode far exceeds the ambitions of just the two countries and a race for a seat at the ICJ. India’s victory at the court reinforces the belief that power does not necessarily reside or has to reside with the ‘few global elite’, a sentiment which was expressed clearly when most member states of the UNGA backed India’s justice Bhandari to be re-elected against the choice of the permanent members or P5 of the UNSC. There seems to be an acknowledgment among the member states of the UN of the beginning of a change which sees an increasing shift in the balance of power away from the traditional powers of the world or the P5 – Britain, China, United States, Russia, and France. Of these countries, China was the only member to not have a judge on the ICJ between 1967 and 1985 till the final decision last week, when they were joined by the UK in the list. Last year, Russia was voted off the United Nations Human Rights Council. In the 2016 elections, France lost out on securing a position in the International Law Commission. While diplomats at the UN continue to maintain that there are no winners and losers here, that it is all part of a bigger picture, these developments undoubtedly mark diplomatic victories for the Group of 77 or the G77, a coalition of developing nations at the UN that have constantly pushed for an enhanced negotiating capacity. What remains to be seen is just to what extent they bring about a change in the status quo.
Iran’s Chabahar Port: How India, Afghanistan, and Iran Gain From it
November 11, 2017 was a significant day diplomatically and geopolitically for Iran, India, and Afghanistan. A trilateral cooperation between the three countries saw Afghanistan receive its first shipment of wheat from India which was set in motion by India’s minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj on October 29 along with her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani. The shipment was the first among a series as part of India’s commitment to supply 1.1 million tons of wheat to the people of the country suffering from decades of war and instability. At the center of this achievement lies Iran’s Chabahar port and the trilateral International Transport and Transit Corridor Agreement between the three countries.
The Iranian port in Chabahar: why it is so important
The Iranian port is located in the country’s southernmost city of Chabahar, and has periodically found itself making headlines especially as the Asian powerhouses in India and China compete for influence in the seas to establish trade relationships across Asia, Europe, and Africa. As China pumps more and more investment into its mammoth Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a modern take on the Silk Route to connect 60 countries across the three continents through land and sea routes, the port of Chabahar has over a period of time found its suitors in prime opponents of the BRI such as India and Japan with the former already investing around USD 500 million in the port. While the idea for the port’s development was first proposed in 1979, it is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2018.
It would be rather unrealistic to assume that the Chabahar port will challenge China’s BRI as a whole to a direct geopolitical contest. However, once fully operational, the port is expected to connect the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean with St. Petersburg in Russia and further ahead with Europe through the International North South Transport Corridor or the INSTC. India, Afghanistan, and Iran stand to gain in different ways both collectively and individually through this development in trade routes.
A win-win-win situation
The development of the Chabahar port presents the key for India to reforge an oil based relationship with Iran and to forge trade relations beyond Afghanistan with countries in Central Asia. Once the port is fully developed, it is expected to also carry a larger variety of cargo, including heavy engineering goods and electronics. With a much shorter route to Europe, the time taken to transport goods from ports in India to countries in Europe is expected to be reduced by more than half from the 45 days it currently takes for the cargo to reach its destination. It is also estimated the cost of the deliveries will be reduced by about 30-40%. Moreover, it seems extremely unlikely that India will be a part of the Chinese proposed BRI, given that an integral component of the initiative is the China Pakistan Economic Corrdior (CPEC) that runs through the Kashmir region whose ownership is hotly contested by both India and Pakistan. In that regard, the Chabahar port offers India the opportunity to challenge China at least in some capacity in their ever expanding contest for trade and influence across the globe, by connecting it to rail networks of different countries in Central Asia.
For a landlocked Afghanistan which has no direct access to the seas, the development of the Chabahar port and its agreement with India and Iran coming to fruition holds great significance. The port opens up the country to the world, and provides it with better access to trade, vastly reducing its dependency on its neighbour Pakistan and enabling it to forge even closer ties with India. Pakistan has in the past disallowed India to access the land route to Afghanistan for the provision of aid to the country. Now an alternate route through Chabahar allows for the same to reach the country first from the port to Zaranj, which is adjacent to Afghanistan’s border with Iran, and then further 218 km ahead into the country via the Zarang-Delaram highway.
For Iran, a fully functional seaport in Chabahar appears to be strategically important since it is located away from the historically contested waters of the Arabian Gulf. Recovering now from easing sanctions, Iran looks to climb the geopolitical ladder and reestablish itself in the coming decades. Amid worsening ties with the United States, it has caught the attention of China, Russia, and other countries in Europe and also looks to gain from its relation with India. The Chabahar port may just be the key to put an end to its economic isolation. Even with the United States and India recognising each other as allies, Iran has not yet found any opposition from the US against India’s cooperation with Iran on the port, and that is because the US recognises the benefit that Afghanistan is able to attain from India’s efforts through the Chabahar port.
India, Iran, and Afghanistan share historical civilisational ties and similarities and the same was referenced by Indian minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj. “This shows the convergence between the ancient civilisations of India, Afghanistan and Iran to spur unhindered flow of commerce and trade throughout the region,” said Swaraj as she flagged off the first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan on October 29.
A Choking City: What the Ongoing Toxic Week in Delhi Means for its People
A joke on the morbidity of New Delhi is circulating among Delhiites (people from Delhi) that while the lives of the citizens were disrupted in November last year due to ‘note-bandi’ (ban on currency), November of this year presents an even tougher test for the people with ‘saans-bandi’, a ban on breathing. The receding autumn or advent of winter was a once beloved season of a good number of people in the city who welcomed the change with a complete revamp of their wardrobes with colourful woollens. It is now characterized with bleak skies, an air of gloom and a little bit of grey in everything you see outside of your house.
For the past three days, I have been acutely aware of the air I am breathing, felt unproductive and apprehensive in spells for no good reason, and felt the need to confine myself to my house for as long as possible. These are some of the less apparent effects of the thick blanket of smog that has engulfed the national capital region. As a number of people donned with different types of masks on the roads and on Snapchat serve as a constant visual reminder of how the city is choking, a flurry of articles and news updates have presided over my feed. One of them included a horrifying viral video recording of vehicles ramming into each other due to poor visibility on the Noida-Agra Expressway as people scrambled to get themselves and their children out of the way, while some other articles argued about how currently breathing in Delhi for a day is the equivalent of smoking twenty cigarettes.
A sudden state of emergency
Less than two days ago, when the air quality in Delhi visibly worsened, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal likened the city to a ‘gas chamber’. The PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels in different parts of the capital have rocketed above the levels that are considered safe, and the Safar (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research) has declared the air quality as ‘severe’ for at least the next three days after which the level may drop to a not so safe either ‘very poor’ level. In some parts of the city, the AQI (air quality index) was detected on monitors at 999, the highest possible reading, which suggests that the level might be even higher. The visibility during the early hours has also dropped to very low levels. Among the different reasons for the observed level of pollution in Delhi, slow winds at this time of the year have been identified as the prime contributor along with stubble burning by farmers in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana. Combined with the dust particles present in the air, omissions from vehicles that plague the roads in the region throughout the day, and those from factories and construction activities, these factors dictate a recipe for creating uninhabitable conditions.
Making amends: A scramble for order
The Indian Medical Association on 7th November declared Delhi to be in a state of public health emergency, urging the Delhi government and other bodies to take adequate steps to ensure minimum risk to citizens, especially young children and the elderly, who are most likely to suffer from the effects of pollution. After a worsening situation, the government has ordered all schools in the capital to remain shut till Sunday, and has rolled out plans to implement the odd-even scheme for vehicles in the city from next week. Parking fee throughout the city has also been increased fourfold and the prices for travel by the metro have been substantially reduced for the time being to promote the use of public transport. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also banned all construction and industrial activities till November 14 in a bid to provide the citizens of Delhi a breath of better quality air. Mr. Kejriwal has also approached his counterparts from Punjab and Haryana over the issue of stubble burning by the farmers but it remains to be seen how the move plays out in the coming days.
As the government battles against the situation, the public is taking measures to protect themselves in whatever way they can. An increasing number of doctors and specialists on the matter have advised people not to go out for morning walks or outdoor activities so as to not inhale excessive quantities of toxic pollutants. Some doctors have even advised their patients to leave the city for the time being if possible. Air purifiers for houses and masks for travelling outside have seen a huge rise in sales as nearly everyone has become an expert on the subject of filters and N95 and N99 have become trending words from pharmacies to WhatsApp conversations.
A year ago, while New Delhi wrestled with more or less the same conditions, UNICEF had called on the rest of the world to consider the situation as a wake up call. “It is a wake up call that very clearly tells us: unless decisive actions are taken to reduce air pollution, the events we are witnessing in Delhi over the past week are likely to be increasingly common”, it had said in a statement. If we are doing better than last year, it is still not enough, and all one needs is less than a minute in the open to be convinced of that. As the world battles with the effects of climate change, India’s bid to have a major global footprint in the coming decades is bound to take a serious hit if so many of its cities, and especially its capital follow a trend of being unlivable for a chunk of time at the end of every year.
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