Filmmaker Divya Bharathi alleges police harassment

25 queries on Orutharum Varela posed to Divya Bharathi

Madurai-based documentary filmmaker and advocate K. Divya alias Divya Bharathi, who appeared at the Gudalur police station in the Nilgiris district as part of her bail conditions on Sunday, was presented with a 25-point questionnaire by the police, seeking a range of details, including her source of income and why she was producing the film ‘Orutharum Varela’ (No one came).

Even as Ms. Divya accused the police of interrogating her without summons for long hours and harassing her, the officials said she was free to decide whether or not to respond to the questionnaire.

However, the documentary filmmaker said that though she had refused to answer the questions, the police had asked her to submit the filled-in questionnaire by Monday morning without fail.

Ms. Divya, who is presently staying at an acquaintance’s place, 10 km away from the Gudalur police station, alleged that the local police were constantly following her and tracking her movements which, she said, was intimidating and unwarranted.

A case against her was registered at the Gudalur station for ‘objectionable’ content in the trailer of her upcoming documentary Orutharum Varela which, according to the FIR, disrespected national symbols, promoted communal disharmony, and negatively portrayed the government and the armed forces.

The documentary focusses on the plight of the fishing community in Tamil Nadu, which endured huge losses during Cyclone Ockhi last year, including the loss of lives.

Stating that she only had to appear at the Gudalur station for a week to sign the register as part of her bail conditions laid down by the Madras High Court, Ms. Divya said the police had no right to interrogate her at the station without any summons.

According to her, the interrogation was carried out by I. Muralidharan, Inspector of Masinagudi station, who has reportedly been designated as the Investigating Officer of the case. “He interrogated not only me, but also the people who had given surety for my bail, for three hours on both the days,” she alleged.

The questionnaire included questions on how the film was financed, the ‘factual basis’ and ‘evidence’ for criticising the government, the list of people appearing in the film and whether they were actors or ‘real-life characters’.

Ms. Divya applied for anticipatory bail after a team of plain-clothes police searched her house in Madurai on July 2 and allegedly pressured her to come for investigation without disclosing the purpose of the search. Only during the hearing of her bail petition in the Madras High Court did the police submit that a case was registered in Gudalur based on a complaint by a sub-inspector at the station.

‘Not mandatory’

Speaking to The Hindu, Inspector of police (Masinagudi) and in-charge of the Gudalur police station I. Muralidharan said that the list of ‘basic’ questions handed over to Ms. Divya was only for investigation purposes, and that answering them was voluntary.

“Ms. Divya can choose not to answer certain questions if she wishes; but through the answers, we can hear her side of the story. As the film was shot in a location outside the Nilgiris and since we could not conduct an investigation at the location, we have sought more details about the film and its content,” he said.

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