An Activist Defied India's Rape Documentary Ban

by Clarissa-Jan Lim

Amid fierce debate in the country about a documentary film centered on the horrifying fatal gang rape in New Delhi, on Monday, Indian police arrested an activist defying the documentary ban to organize a public screening of the BBC film in a village close to the city of Agra.

The documentary was shown on a makeshift screen of white blanket sheets, which Ketan Dixit, the arrested, and two other activists, had organized as a "mark of protest against the ban," reported The Times of India. Dixit also challenged the government to take whatever action against him that it deemed fit.

A week ago, Indian government officials announced the ban of director Leslie Udwin's BBC documentary, India's Daughter that surrounded the violent gang rape and subsequent fatal beating of a 23-year-old woman on a Delhi bus in 2012. Officials accused the film's makers of violating "permission conditions" because they failed to show the complete unedited footage to prison officials. The ban was put into place as a response to BBC publishing excerpts of an interview in the documentary with one of the rapists, Mukesh Singh, whose remorseless, appalling remarks placing blame on the victim for the rapists' actions elicited furious responses from the public.


Around 70 men, women and children attended the screening in the village of Rupdhanu. Police also confiscated all the audiovisual equipment at the time of Dixit's arrest for what it called "forensic examination." The defiant activist told The Guardian that protests against the ban was only taking off, with more to come:

This is the beginning of a series of protests. We will also lodge a protest petition online against this ban.

The activist had tweeted to Prime Minster Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh last week that he was bringing the film to villages in response to the ban.

The decision not to air the film was highly controversial — its British filmmaker, Udwin, called it "international suicide" and local Indian news network NDTV protested the move by running a blank screen for an hour when the film was supposed to be broadcast. Overseas, a women's leadership organization Vital Voices Global Partnership — co-founded by Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright in 1997 — debuted India's Daughter in New York City on Monday at a celebrity-heavy event, in what could be seen as another powerful statement against the Indian officials' decision.

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