Are the ongoing threats and abuse on Divya Bharathi, the director of the documentary film ‘Kakkoos’, yet another attempt to muzzle the voice of dissent? Kakkoos, a film which mirrors the still prevalent practice of manual scavenging in Tamil Nadu, even after the state imposed a blanket ban, was released on 26 February. But according to the debutant film maker, all hell broke loose soon after she uploaded a video about the alleged harassment of sanitary workers belonging to Pallar caste (one of the scheduled castes in Tamil Nadu) by the Dean of Anna University in Dindigul, Chithra Selvi. Bharathi suspects that she and her film was targeted for exposing the Dean.The threat calls and derogatory social media messages she receives every minute alleges that her film has wrongly depicted the Pallars.
Many callers have threatened to kill me or rape me. Ironically, most of the callers have not watched the film and they are acting on the behalf of the rumour that I insulted their casteDivya Bharathi, Director of ‘Kakkoos’
According to Bharathi, she has only brought to notice that Dalits belonging to many castes are involved in manual scavenging. “My focus is on manual scavengers and I listed out the castes the sanitary workers who are involved in manual scavenging belong to”, added Bharathi.
Trailer of the documentary ‘Kakoos’
While her film intended to urge the society to join the campaign against manual scavenging, a section of Dalits who practice it took it as an insult.
My intention was not to insult any caste, but to empower them and urging them to stop them from engaging in this workDivya Bharathi, Director of ‘Kakkoos’
While the freedom of expression is once again at stake, many equate the ongoing attack to silence Bharathi to that of the attack on writer Perumal Murugan, for his novel One Part Woman. Caste groups gathered against Perumal Murugan alleged that the novel insults the women of Thiruchegodu region in Tamilnadu.
“This is a typical BJP tatics, to create fear in the minds of people. They are spreading hatred under the pretext of Pallar community,” renowned filmmaker Amudhan RP said.
It is the handiwork of an instigated mob spreading rumours and targeting a person without even knowing the exact reasons for doing it. If most of the abusers in the case of Perumal Murugan, had not read the book, Bharathi’s abusers have also not watched the filmAmudhan RP, Filmmaker
In the wake of this untoward incidents, people from the film fraternity, writers, journalists, academicians, activists and a section of the concerned civil society condemned the attack on Bharathi. In a statement drafted by filmmaker Amudhan Ramalingam and endorsed by the likes of acclaimed filmmakers including Anand Patwardhan, Nishitha Jain and Gopal Menon reads, “We appeal to filmmakers, writers, journalists, activists, teachers and students to come out in support of Divya Bharathi. Let us ask the government of Tamilnadu to take action against those people who have been threatening her. “
Let us rally around to protect the freedom of expression. Let us stall the hate campaign and fake news spread by Hindutva and casteist forces against Divya BharathiStatement by concerned citizens
Supporters of Bharathi and her film says it is important to extend solidarity to the filmmaker because the film not only exposes the hypocrisy of the Tamil Nadu government or its double standards but also stirs up the distasteful issue of caste hierarchy in the country, once again.
The film with its disturbing visuals won critical acclaim and immediately caught the attention of the country, a dream beginning for any debutant is a clear sign that we should not let her talent or brilliance down or we should not let this voice be silenced by any fringe elements.