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Tamil Nadu: Documentary filmmaker Divya Bharathi arrested for 2009 student protests, granted bail

The ‘Kakkoos’ director had participated in an agitation against a Dalit student’s death because of alleged hospital negligence.

Documentary filmmaker Divya Bharathi was arrested by the Madurai Police on Tuesday and later released on bail in connection with a case registered against her in 2009, The Hindu reported.

In 2009, Bharathi and six others had participated in a protest against a Dalit student’s death because of lack of proper medical attention at Government Rajaji Hospital. The student was taken to the hospital after being bitten by a snake. The group had also protested against the abysmal conditions of the hostels housing Dalit students in Madurai.

On Tuesday, the police arrested Bharathi from her house in Alangakulam and produced her before the judicial magistrate’s court. The judge granted her conditional bail and ordered her to sign at the court for a week, reported PTI.

Bharathi made news for her recent film Kakkoos, a searing documentary about manual scavenging.

Her lawyer P Gnanavel said Bharathi and the others had prevented doctors at GR Hospital from discharging their duties on December 21, 2009. The seven were booked on charges of wrongful restraint, voluntarily hurting, trespass and disobedience to an order duly promulgated by a public servant.

“Even as the hearing in the criminal case was going on in the court, she failed to appear for two hearings,” he said. “Hence, the magistrate issued a warrant against her. After she was produced before the court, she was granted bail.”

CPI(ML) condemns her arrest

Meanwhile, the Communist Part of India (Marxist-Leninst) condemned Bharathi’s arrest.

“It is shameful that a student activist should be punished for protesting against the death of a student due to the negligent and inhuman conditions inside hostels for Dalit students,” the party said in a statement. “Such conditions prevail in Dalit hostels all over the country – in Bhojpur as well as in Bihar.”

“The CPI(ML) plans to organise protests in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in the country against the highhandedness of the Tamil Nadu Police and upholding the right of students to protest,” the party said.

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Attitudinal barriers

In some rural parts of the country, a heavy social stigma exists against mental illness – this has been documented in many studies including the NIMHANS study mentioned earlier. Mental illness is considered to be the “possession of an evil spirit in an individual”. To rid the individual of this evil spirit, patients or family members rely on traditional healers or religious practitioners. Lack of awareness on mental disorders has led to further strengthening of this stigma. Most families refuse to acknowledge the presence of a mental disorder to save themselves from the discrimination in the community.

Lack of healthcare services

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Economic burden

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Participants of the program.
Participants of the program.

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We spent a lot of money for treatment and travel. We visited Shivamogha Manasa and Dharwad Hospital for getting treatment. We were not able to continue the treatment for long as we are poor. We suffered economic burden because of the long- distance travel required for the treatment. Now we are getting quality psychiatric service near our village. We are getting free medication in taluk and Primary Healthcare Centres resulting in less economic stress.

— A parent's experience at an APD treatment camp.

In the two years TLLLF has partnered with APD, 892 and individuals with mental health concerns have been treated in the districts of Kolar, Davangere, Chikkaballapur and Bijapur in Karnataka. Over 4620 students participated in awareness building sessions. TLLLF and APD have also secured the participation of 810 community health workers including ASHA workers in the mental health awareness projects - a crucial victory as these workers play an important role in spreading awareness about health. Post treatment, 155 patients have resumed their previous occupations.

To mark World Mental Health Day, 2017, a team from TLLLF lead by Deepika Padukone visited program participants in the Davengere district.

Sessions on World Mental Health Day, 2017.
Sessions on World Mental Health Day, 2017.

In the face of a mental health crisis, it is essential to overcome the treatment gap present across the country, rural and urban. While awareness campaigns attempt to destigmatise mental disorders, policymakers need to make treatment accessible and cost effective. Until then, organisations like TLLLF and APD are doing what they can to create an environment that acknowledges and supports people who live with mental disorders. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.