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Subtitle this

Like most people, I have trouble watching TV channels with Western programs, because, even though I can perfectly understand what everyone is saying, my eyes become riveted to the subtitles, so I'm reading more than watching. These subtitles are presumably there for those who have trouble with the foreign accents. And also for those who have trouble with reality.



Like grown-ups who spell things out in front of kids, to protect them from reality � because reality leads to moral degradation � the subtitles too, have a word censorship and substitute stars or euphemisms for some words. Most intriguing of these are: ovaries, uterus, period, rape. It's as if everything connected to the female body will destroy our innocence. Let's not grow up! Let's pretend there's no ovaries, or rape.

I guess the folks who make the national budget must watch these channels a lot. Why else would their allocation for relief to rape victims slide down from 53.3 crore in 2009-10, to 36.2 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 7.5 crore in 2011-12, although the number of reported rapes has climbed steadily, totaling 21000 in 2011. No point allocating more really. According to a report by CEHAT, cited by Dhrubaa Ghosh in a recent yahoo blog post, only 9 lakhs of the allocated budget was spent last year. Or, Rs. 42 per reported rape.

A scheme where the National Commission for Women will help victims with money and support service is still awaiting implementation. Well, the Supreme Court directive came only six years ago. Relax.

Now that famous feminist Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose party vociferously stalled the women's reservation bill, is riding to the rescue of rape victims in UP. He has promised to give them government jobs. Provided they're educated. You think there's a co-relation between the idea that women who are jumped up enough to be educated are likely to get raped? Baap re! Such twisted minds you educated people are having! Meanwhile horribly poor and so, possibly illiterate victims, please excuse. That's not rape, that's tradition. Ask the subtitlers.

Let's not be too hard on Mulayam. He has the Chhattisgarh government to keep up with. They just awarded a gallantry medal to SP Ankit Garg for leading an ambush against Maoist guerrillas in Mahasamund district, where six Maoists and two civilians died in controversial circumstances. Later, he was posted to Dantewada and under his watch a woman called Soni Sori was arrested on charges of being a Maoist courier, and tortured.

In letters submitted by Soni Sori, to the Supreme Court, she says SP Garg verbally abused her and that he commanded and watched junior police personnel as they stripped her naked, administered electric shocks and assaulted her by stuffing stones up her vagina and anus. A medical examination found two stones in Ms. Soni's genital tract and one in her rectum.

Ms. Sori already has a government job as a school teacher, so Mulayamji is not required. And of course a stone is not a penis, unless we're using subtitles, so this is not rape. It's just torture. But as Mr. Garg's colleagues put it an interview: "that's a separate case" so his torture has no bearing on his gallantry. Anyway he didn't do it, he just made suggestions, like a subtitle.

Words are all we have. We can twist them, and with that, twist reality, twist people's lives. We can draw a thick line over reality. That's called censorship, but we can also subtitle it, bulls**t. For those who cross that line with truth there is rape, torture, banning. For everyone else there's Mastercard.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with
fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at
www.parodevi.com.

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.

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