By Nidhi Kinhal
In a really strange series of events, filmmaker Divya Bharati was arrested by the Tamil Nadu police on Tuesday. The arrest was in relation to a students’ protest in 2009 against pathetic living conditions in a Dalit students’ hostel, and the lack of medical attention in Government Rajaji Hospital after a student died from a snake-bite.
She was escorted from her residence in Alangulam, and produced before the judicial magistrate court II. Allegedly, she had failed to appear before the court a couple of times, and an arrest warrant was issued on charges of ‘preventing doctors at Government Rajaji hospital from discharging their duties on December 21, 2009’. She was also charged with trespass and ‘voluntarily causing hurt’ by agitating in front of the hospital, which hardly make sense. According to her lawyer P. Gnanavel, Divya was one of the seven accused booked. This isn’t the first time students have been arrested for protesting. Divya Bharathi was last in the news for her film, Kakkoos, which lay bare the truths of manual scavenging in India.
While she has been released on bail, numerous organisations and individuals have come out in her support, against what they feel is a larger campaign targeting Dalit and allied voices. While Divya claimed that she hadn’t appeared before the court because she hadn’t received proper summons, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) condemned the “arbitrary and illegal arrest”. The charges do seem too iffy to have been recalled and acted upon from eight years ago. Explaining the details of the arrest, and the 2009 agitations, Divya told The News Minute that the arrest was probably because of a video she released about the sufferings of sanitation workers in the Dindigul campus of Anna University.
She adds, “I’ve been facing threats and stiff opposition ever since I released the video.” The nuanced ways in which the law and police function are often alarming. While the demands for better hostel conditions and compensation for the deceased student in 2009 were ignored, she recalls that the hospital authorities just left the body in front of the hospital gate. Injustices towards Dalits are still rampant today, but of course in the eyes of the state, a 2009 protest against loss of lives, is more problematic.