Last week, we were talking about the thousand of threats Tamil Nadu filmmaker Divya Bharathi received for a video she posted, that implicated the Dean of Anna University in cases of manual scavenging. Bharathi said she received a huge number of threatening phone calls, and the numbers showed up on TrueCaller with the names of the political parties attached, “BJP Saravanan or BJP Muralidharan”. We remarked then about how brave she was, by refusing to switch off her phone despite the violence and volume of the threats.
Now, however, the threats have reached a whole new level, to the extent that she has been forced to leave Tamil Nadu. People are alleging that Bharathi engaged in cyber terrorism by posting her videos on manual scavenging, and saying that she smeared the named of the Pallar community, to which the Dean of Anna University belongs. Bharathi said to The News Minute that cases have been registered against her in various localities, including Dindigul and Madurai, and more horrifyingly, that she’s clearly being watched. She also said that while all these cases have been filed against her, there’s been no police action in her own case of blatant, violent and persistent harassment with clear political undertones.
Terrifyingly, she talks about how she recently drank tea outside a police station in Madurai (which she’s forced to report to every week due to the specious cases against her) and immediately received a phone call asking her how she dared to stand outside and drink tea like a man (?). When she was heading to Pollachi for a film screening, she decided to get off at Dharapuram and drive to Pollachi to avoid being followed. As soon as she got into a car, she received a call saying that this was the kind of fear they wanted to have.
It’s a horrifying situation. Divya Bharathi, a woman who did nothing but bring to light the plight of one of India’s most embattled and oppressed communities, is being harassed in the most cruel way: by having to constantly live with the fear of being murdered or assaulted at any given point of the day. It’s the kind of fear that never leaves you and follows you everywhere you go, and that leaves you feeling unsafe no matter where you are and what you do. It’s the kind of fear men want women like Bharathi to feel, because it’s the kind of fear that powerful women inspire in them. Despite all odds and opposition though, Bharathi still refuses to switch her phone off.
There’s no end, by the way, to the kind of fear powerful women inspire. Activist Irom Sharmila, who was on hunger strike for 16 years in order to repeal the AFSPA in Manipur, recently filed a wedding application under the Special Marriage Act in Tamil Nadu, to which numerous groups and people objected because…well, just because. Thankfully, as of now, none of the objections to her marriage stick and have been dismissed by the concerned sub-registrar. In a kind of lovely and meaningful show of solidarity, Irom Sharmila has invited Divya Bharathi to be a bridesmaid at her wedding in Kodaikanal. I hope she makes it 🙂