Filmmaker Divya Bharathi continues to be hounded by the Tamil Nadu police
July 9, 2018
Article 19A of the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of expression to every citizen in the country. Since the right-wing government has come into power, there has been an increase in the curbing of one’s right to freedom across the country. Artists across the country are being hounded by right-wing groups for critiquing them.
Recently, the Tamil Nadu police raided Tamil documentary filmmaker Divya Bharathi’s house. In the early hours of 3 July, 2918, her house was surrounded by around 15 police personal, most of whom were in civilian clothing. This incident happened shortly after the director released the trailer of her documentary Orutharun Varela (Nobody Came) on Cyclone Ockhi. Her film talks about the negligence of the Tamil Nadu state government and the sheer apathy of the Indian navy towards the victims and their families during Cyclone Ockhi. The families settled in the affected coastal areas had not been given any prior warnings about the approaching cyclone. Soon after its trailer was released on Youtube, the activist-filmmaker begun receiving threats from people living in Tamil Nadu and nearby areas. In an act of intimidation and in a clear violation of right to freedom, the police raided her house to prevent her from releasing the documentary.
Last year, Bharathi’s film on the plight of the manual scavengers, Kakkoos also faced similar issues. Kakkoos has also faced immense backlash from certain right-wing groups. Bharathi received several rape and death threats. The state police, instead of coming to her defence, added to her harassment by disrupting several screenings of the film. The reactions to te film continued to worsen with no help or protection from the state government. Ultimately, Bharathi was forced to go into exile.
Divya Bharathi has been an activist since she was studying in a college.
This is not the first time that the Tamil Nadu government has curtailed artists’ right to freedom of expression. Last year in November, cartoonist G Bala was arrested from Tirunelveli alleged for “depicting the government in poor light”. In yes another incident, cartoonist Karna was taken to court for one of his works, published in the Tamil newspaper Dinamalar, that criticised the Karunanidhi government
Divya Bharthi and her crew should be lauded for their bravery for trying to reveal the plight of the victims of the Ockhi cyclone and the state government’s negligence. They deserve all the support that they can get.
Sreelakshmi is a member of the editorial collective of the Indian Writers' Forum.
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