Today in New Delhi, India
Nov 14, 2018-Wednesday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Tackling a CM, separatist: Why a journalist stands by India's Daughter

Senior journalist recalls experience with politicians who wanted to be 'friends' with her.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2015 08:57 IST
Harinder Baweja
Harinder Baweja
Hindustan Times
December 16 gangrape,December 16 gangrape video,India's Daughter

I am India's daughter. A proud daughter. Each one of us is.

I am against the ban on the documentary that in my view, exposes the crass mindset of Mukesh Singh, the driver of the bus in which the young girl was gang raped and subjected to unspeakable violence.

The rapists managed to silence her with their physical brutality but she lives within us, as a reminder of what we have all gone through at some stage of our lives.

She reminds me of my own harassers: powerful people who occupied powerful posts.

I was fortunate; more fortunate than a lot of women. I was a journalist; a young reporter kicking my heels in the field. An interview I sought with the chief minister of a state came through quickly. He answered all my questions and as I prepared to leave, he came forward to shake my hand. His arm soon went around my shoulder and before I knew it he was hugging me tight. I expressed my displeasure and left.

READ Man and beast: Missing the picture in the December 16 gangrape documentary

Over two decades ago, I did not think of pressing further and registering a complaint. Partly, may be, I didn't think it was necessary because I've always felt I could look after myself.

After a few months, I went again to interview the same chief minister. I made sure I was accompanied by a photographer. The CM saw me walk in with my male colleague. As he shook my hand once again, he leant forward and whispered, "So, you've brought a body guard along. "Looking him straight in the eye, I said, "Next time, I'll bring two." I had neither guilt nor was I shamed.

The brave December 16 gang rape victim left us the powerful message: it is not us who need to feel ashamed.

India's daughters know--from their own experiences and from those of their many friends--that the problem is not us. I was not out at night, I was not skimpily dressed. I couldn't have been in a State in the throes of a militant insurgency. No, this chief minister was neither from Jammu and Kashmir and neither from the North East.

But in Kashmir--this was in the 90s, when militancy was at its peak--I had another disturbing experience. A separatist leader (he's still alive, unlike the chief minister who died) gave me an appointment for an interview well after sun set. Srinagar was not a place where anyone ventured out of home after dusk in the 90s. The few, who did, carried pieces of paper with their addresses scribbled on it in their pockets. At least their bodies would reach home was the logic then.

India’s Daughter: Banning the film is no solution to rape malaise

The separatist leader took deliberate pleasure, I found out on hindsight, in fixing a late appointment. He was not keen on the interview. Extending his hand, he asked, "mujh se dosti karogi?" He tried to keep the conversation going in the same vein: why do you always think work? Do you like poetry? Can we not talk about the moon and the stars?

That was the last time I approached him for an interview. There's no need to name him and shame him. That was done on the spot.

So why write about this today, after years, and in the case of the chief minister, after decades?

It is no longer about me. It is about us.

It is important, very important to lend one's voice to the debate surrounding the ban of the documentary. For all of us who've seen it on YouTube, it has only evoked pain and complete empathy for the victim and her brave parents who are an integral part of the docu. It also evokes, in greater measure, contempt and deep revulsion for the bus driver and his lawyers.

I stand with India's Daughter. Do you?

First Published: Mar 05, 2015 18:49 IST