By Ila Ananya
Videos of the inhuman treatment of a young woman at Aramghar, a ‘home’ for people with disabilities, in Hyderabad has been doing the rounds for a few days now. She is seen naked and chained to a large stone, and the floor is dirty, and littered with her excreta. According to reports, the woman has been here, in this condition, since 2014.
Various news reports doing the rounds about this horrifying case quote the young woman as saying that she was sexually abused in the dark all through her time there — she was chained for the first time when she hit out at someone whom she thought was the person abusing her, but hit someone else instead. The Aramghar management took this as a reason to tie her up, to ‘protect’ both the staff and everyone else living there. Since then, she hasn’t been let out — the superintendent, has reportedly said they chained her only to “bring her under control”.
But here is the background. Aramghar, which was started in 1954, is managed by the Indian Council for Social Welfare. The News Minute reports that it has around 50 women and 45 men living there, many of whom are mentally ill. The police often bring people without homes whom they find on the roads there, except the place has no facilities to deal with either physical or mental health issues. The problem here is glaring — the institution’s treatment of this young woman has thrown light on the rather limited places available to people with mental illness.
In the young woman’s case, there seems to be no certainty on whether the young woman has a mental health problem (and even if she does, the way she has been treated in the last four years is no way to treat a person with mental illness). The New Indian Express for one, has reported that some of the police only claimed that the woman ‘seemed’ mentally unstable. Other police officials also reportedly said she didn’t have a mental health problem, which is why legal procedure of bringing the person before the magistrate wasn’t followed as it should have been.
Ever since the video of this woman went viral, the police registered a case against Aramghar for wrongful confinement. But this is just one more horrifying case that shows the desperate need to have safer homes for young women.