NEW DELHI: India has banned the broadcasting of a controversial documentary in which one of the men who gang-raped and murdered a student is shown blaming the victim -- a move the film's maker called “arbitrary censorship”.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the Indian parliament on Wednesday the comments of Mukesh Singh, one of five men convicted over the 2012 attack in New Delhi, were “highly derogatory and an affront to the dignity of women”.
“The government condemns it,” he said of the documentary made by award-winning British film-maker Leslee Udwin, who won rare access to New Delhi's Tihar jail to interview the prisoner on death row.
“It will not allow any organisation to leverage such an incident and use it for commercial purpose,” he said.
Singh's comments in the Rajya Sabha, India's upper house, came after a New Delhi court late Tuesday issued an order banning media from showing the film, “India's Daughter”.
Spokesman Rajan Bhagat said the New Delhi police had petitioned the court for a ban on the grounds that the film's “objectionable content” could cause public disorder.
The December 2012 gang-rape of a young physiotherapy student as she travelled home from a visit to the cinema triggered violent protests in India.
The woman died from her injuries 13 days after the savage attack, which highlighted the frightening level of violence against women in the world's second most populous country.
It led to a major reform of India's rape laws, speeding up trials and increasing penalties, although many campaigners say little has changed for most ordinary victims.
Read also: Indian court orders hanging of Delhi gang-rape attackers
India's NDTV network was due to have shown the documentary to mark International Women's Day on Sunday, when it will also be broadcast in six other countries including Britain.
Udwin said she was heart-broken by the ban on the documentary, in which Mukesh Singh said the 23-year-old victim should not have been “roam(ing) around at 9 o'clock at night” and that “a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy”.
“I am sure, positive, that NDTV will fight this arbitrary censorship all the way, because it is an organisation that stands up for values, for public welfare and for the greater good,” she told AFP.
“India is a country that values its rights and one of the most important of them is the freedom of speech, expression and that needs to be upheld. “Udwin said earlier she had permission from both prison authorities and the home ministry to film inside the vast Tihar jail in Delhi for her documentary.
But Home Minister Singh said she had violated the terms of the agreement, and summoned the head of the jail to explain why permission had been granted.
The ban sparked a lively debate on social media and in parliament, where independent MP Anu Agha said India was failing to confront the problem of violence against women.
“Banning this movie is not the answer,” she said.
“We have to confront the issue that men in India do not respect women and any time there is a rape, blame is put on the woman. “The documentary has divided the Indian public, with some people expressing concern that a convicted rapist was being given a platform for his views.
Others said India must confront views such as the rapist's -- however abhorrent -- rather than seeking to hide them.
The controversy was one of India's top trending topics on Wednesday.
“The world needs to see what kind of mindset this vile man has,” tweeted Yogita.
“Raise awareness, learn from it and rectify. “Karan Bhatt, however, tweeted in Hindi that the documentary was “just an excuse... to defame India”.
No one at the NDTV network could immediately be reached for comment on the ban.
But Udwin said she believed it would only serve to increase interest in her film.
“The more they try to stop the film, the more they are going to pique people's interest,” she said.
“Now, everyone is going to want to see it. “