Ostensibly wanted by the police for questioning ahead of the release of her documentary film ‘Orutharum Varela’ (Nobody Came), K Divya Bharathi Friday got temporary relief from arrest after the Madurai bench of Madras High Court ordered the state police not to arrest her until July 16. The documentary focusses on the impact of Cyclone Ockhi, which devastated the coasts of southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala in December last year, and purported failure of the government machinery in rescue operations.
The court order came on an anticipatory bail plea moved by Divya after plainclothed police personnel searched her house, and apparently made attempts to take her in custody without citing warrants or any reason, on July 3.
According to the petitioner, she was working elsewhere at the time, and the raiding party told her father that they want to question her about her new documentary. Divya’s counsel Robert Chandrakumar said that they have no clue why the police want to take her into custody.
“When the court asked the police (why they wanted to detain her), they claimed ignorance,” Chandrakumar said. “When it was heard again today, the advocate-general said in the morning that there was no case against her in the southern districts (of Tamil Nadu). But the court insisted that he should report about cases in northern districts as well, as Tamil Nadu DGP T K Rajendran was also a respondent in the petition.”
During the hearing Chandrakumar said, the government “confirmed” that there was a case in the Nilgiris district under several Sections of IPC, including 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language). “Since the Madurai bench of HC has no jurisdiction there (in the Nilgiris), the court extended the two-day stay against arrest until July 16,” he said. Divya, 27, will now have to move a petition in Madras HC in Chennai, which has jurisdiction over the region.
Asked about the alleged police action against Divya, DGP Rajendran claimed ignorance and suggested speaking with the officials concerned in Madurai. He did not reply when asked whether he had ordered a probe into what Divya claims is an illegal search, and harassment being caused to the filmmaker, who is also a practising lawyer in Madurai.
Maintaining that she has no idea why the case was filed in the Nilgiris, Divya said, “There may be several cases being filed to trap me. The police are being used (to harass)…. On Monday, women police personnel came to my home in plain clothes, forcefully entered and searched in my absence…. All 13 lady officers refused to speak to my lawyer.”
“There were more attempts later to take me in custody,” she claimed.
Divya was earlier arrested in July 2017 after her previous documentary on the plight of manual scavengers in the state – ‘Kakkoos’ — kicked up a storm. A Dalit group has alleged that the film portrayed a Dalit community in bad light.