NEW DELHI — Irate over the release of a British-made documentary film on a 2012 gang rape, India’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, on Wednesday told Parliament that the government would “not allow any organization to leverage such an incident and use it for commercial purpose.”
The documentary, “India’s Daughter,” features an interview with Mukesh Singh, now on death row for the crime, who justifies the brutal attack by saying “a decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night.” Excerpts from the interview were released on Tuesday as part of an advance publicity campaign.
Things moved quickly after that. After a condemnation from Mr. Singh, the Delhi police moved for a restraining order, and an Indian court issued a stay banning broadcast of the film, which is set to be aired Sunday on the BBC. The order said that the rapist’s statements created “an atmosphere of fear and tension with the possibility of public outcry and law and order situation.”
The filmmaker, Leslee Udwin, said she was “deeply saddened” by the ban, which she described as the “flouting of a basic right of freedom of speech.”
“India should be embracing this film, not blocking it with a knee-jerk hysteria without even seeing it,” she wrote in a statement on the website of NDTV, a news channel.
Though the vast majority of Indians have not yet seen the film, it was nonetheless the subject of stormy debate among activists and public intellectuals on Wednesday.
The author Nilanjana Roy warned of the “very real risk of turning a rapist into the Twitter celebrity of the day.” Writing in FirstPost, the film director Sandip Roy questioned what all the fuss was about, considering that, as he put it, “Singh’s observations would not sound that out of place in the mouths of many law-abiding Indians.”
During a session of Parliament, many lawmakers endorsed the home minister’s view, and some wondered whether it might be possible to ban the film outside India’s borders.
Anu Aga, a member of the upper house, was one of the few members who spoke out in favor of the film.
“In glorifying India, saying we are perfect, we are not confronting the issues that need to be confronted,” she said. “Any time there is a rape, blame is put on the woman — that she was indecently dressed, she provoked the men. It is not just men in prisons’ views. It is the view of many men in India.”
She added, “Let’s be aware of it, and let’s not pretend that all is well.”
The 2012 rape and subsequent trial transfixed India for most of a year, prompting passionate discussions about women’s safety in this rapidly urbanizing country.
The woman, a 23-year-old medical student, had boarded a private bus with a male companion, not realizing that the six men aboard had been driving the streets in search of a victim. After knocking her friend unconscious, they took her to the back of the bus and raped her, then damaged her internal organs with an iron rod. She died two weeks later of her injuries.
One defendant hanged himself in his prison cell; another, a juvenile at the time of the crime, was sentenced to the maximum punishment of three years in a detention center.
When the remaining four men were sentenced to death by hanging, crowds outside the courthouse erupted in celebration.