Satyamev Jayate: Episode 1 Daughters are Precious: Female Foeticide and some thoughts
I had stuff to do today, and not being a TV watcher at all, I had no particular interest or awareness of a new show. Wandering into the kitchen, I overheard some and went to watch. This is the episode.
For someone actively interested in human rights, the information in this show was no news. But what I think is noteworthy is that this was Doordarshan – reaching “every household in the country” with hard hitting facts on the gender imbalance in the country and the reality of female foeticide. This reaches people who may not read newspapers or may not be interested in such stories, people who didn’t pay attention to census data, people who may not watch news. They watched Aamir Khan, and he was brilliant in highlighting the facts as they stand. Data interspersed with real people and real exxperiences, comments from professionals, exposing the apathetic nature of our response to this crime.
It doesn’t make much impact other than among those tuned in to human rights when you say that criminals enjoy impunity from the state and law. But when Aamir Khan bluntly asks on National Television how many doctors have had their licences revoked for terminating girls selectively, and the answer is “None”, people sit up and take notice. Then what are all those PSAs on TV all about is the first question that comes to mind. The pretense lies bare.
That Aamir Khan is totally himself and finding out on in view of the audience rather than presenting only adds to the sense of the audience discovering for themselves.
Interviewing journalists who did an expose of more than 100 doctors offering gender selective abortions, including ghastly recommendations of killing the girl child if born live because the pregnancy had progressed too much, is coming face to face with the reality of what is happening. Then the viewer finds out that it is the journalists who suffered legal hassles including arrest warrants, but the doctors are fine and in business and even getting promotions. This kind of a lens on what is happening in the country is important. It takes away a big rock the creeps hide under.
The call for very specific action – to set up a fast track court for all these cases to be tried quickly and in one place is a very well targeted action point that should directly lead to convictions. That a star of Aamir Khan’s magnitude takes the lead makes it difficult to ignore. This kind of activism is new, and much needed.
Another thing the show did very, very well was linking dowry, female foeticide, infanticide, trafficking of women for marriage and crimes against women at large. The interconnectedness of women’s rights and the self-sustaining cycle of abuse it results in when they all feed each other. The magnitude of the problem and the enormous challenge in fixing it. It is a very difficult link to explain, but I think the show managed to pull it off very well.
There were many critics on social media. Some called it a copy of various human rights shows others quoted vast amounts of money Aamir Khan is making. Strangely, these people don’t find their very expensive film viewing of the same exorbitant film star excessively expensive. It raises the other question of human rights work being expected to be non-profit alone – as though working for human rights makes people less deserving of profits.
In my view, the show raises important questions, effectively uses the charisma and following of a superstar to address urgent needs of the country. When it is Aamir Khan telling people to write to the CM of Rajasthan, hopefully it results in a large enough demand for action to compel the government to act or explain its inaction.
That there are detractors surprises no one. Any human rights efforts are always through a curtain of a chauvinistic status quo ridiculing the effort for change. That it did not spare Aamir Khan either is only a matter of reassurance that it made a genuine effort. Otherwise, there was no need for resistance.