This is where humanity goes to die: Hyderabad rehab ties up woman to ‘bring her under control’.

Tied up stripped forced to sit in her own excreta Inhuman treatment of woman at Hyd homeScreenshot from the video.
news Human Rights Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 15:03

A skeletally thin woman has her leg chained to a large stone. Visibly scared, she clutches a red cloth to her chest. Except for that dirty piece of fabric, she isn’t wearing anything. The floor on which she sits is completely dirty, littered with what looks like her own excreta.

This video from a Hyderabad home for the destitute has gone viral on the Internet. Who is this woman? Why was she tied up? How long has she been in this state?

And who is responsible for her condition?

The ‘home’ in which the emaciated woman - Renuka, alias Rinku - was found is, ironically enough, called 'Aramghar'. Managed by the Indian Council for Social Welfare, established in 1954, Aramghar has around 50 inmates in the women’s ward, and around 45 in the men’s ward, many of them mentally ill.

Routinely, the police bring destitute men and women from the streets of Hyderabad to this institution, says P Jagadeeshwar, the Inspector of the Mailardevpally police station.

“It’s a 50-60 year old home. We have always taken people there, along with other homes in the city,” the inspector says.

And four years ago, he says, Renuka was one of them.

Rinku before Aramghar. Photo date unknown.

Was Renuka abandoned?

A letter accessed by TNM, written by the station house officer of Mailardevpally to the director of Aramghar on December 6, 2014, says that Renuka/Rinku, who hails from Bihar, was discharged by a "Gandhi Dham Ashram" in Kutch, Gujarat.

“In view of the above it is requested to admit the said lady till traces her address,” the letter reads. (sic)

The letter written by the police to Aramghar management.

The inspector, though, denies any link to the the “Ashram” in Gujarat.

“She was roaming on the streets of Hyderabad and we took her to the home,” Inspector Jagadeeshwar claims.

The officer says that Rinku seemed mentally ill when they found her, which is why they shifted her to a rehab home.

Inside Aramghar

Except, Aramghar doesn’t even have a nurse or a doctor for first aid, forget a psychiatrist for mental health care.

And once Rinku reached Aramghar, the treatment meted out to her was beyond inhuman.

Speaking to News Nation reporter Raj Kiran, Rinku says that she has faced sexual harassment inside Aramghar for a long time now.

“When it gets dark, people come and lift my clothes up and touch me. I don’t know who it is because it was dark. Once, I tried to hit them, and by mistake, I hit somebody else,” she told the reporter.

And after that incident, the management at Aramghar decided to tie Rinku up to ‘protect’ the other inmates and the staff.

“That was several years ago,” one of the staff members at Aramghar told Raj Kiran. “May be 3 or 4 years back,” she reportedly said.

And in all the time that she’s been kept tied up, Rinku hasn’t been allowed out even once. Not to eat at the dining hall with other inmates, not to take a bath, not even to go to the toilet.

“What happens when she has her period?” a woman asks one of the staff members in a video accessed by TNM.

“Nothing. She stays there only,” the staff member says.

Rinku was kept tied up at all times at Aramghar.

‘Chaining her up inhuman’

The superintendent of Aramghar, according to multiple media reports, has said that they chained the victim only to “scare her” and “bring her under control”, when she became violent and attacked the staff.

That just goes on to show how little sensitivity they have while dealing with persons with mental illness.

Senior psychiatrist Dr Prasad Rao told ANI, “How they are claiming that she is mentally retarded, and where is humanity going. We don't even chain the mental patients in the extreme conditions.”

Legal action

As the videos have gone viral, the police have registered a case against Aramghar under section 342 of IPC - which deals with wrongful confinement. The police say that they haven’t been able to confirm the allegations of sexual abuse.

Inspector Jagadeeshwar says, "We have not been able to confirm the allegations as of now. We are in the process of investigating, and we will find out if it’s true."

"In case any more facts come to light, we will take legal aid, and book them under more sections," he adds.

Rinku, meanwhile, has been taken to Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust in Hyder Shah Kote, at the behest of the Telangana State Legal Services Authority, and is being given treatment.

“The issue came to our notice on Saturday night. It seems that the woman is mentally unstable. Even to get her treated, there is a need for an order,” V Padmavathi, state head of KGNMT told The New Indian Express.

Aramghar inmates at the dining hall.

The men's ward.

What the law says

Tying someone up for prolonged periods of time is not just inhuman, it is definitely against the law.

According to the Mental Health Care Act, 2016, it is illegal to chain a mentally ill person. ‘Physical restraint’ can only be used on the advice of a psychiatrist, and only to prevent ‘imminent and immediate harm to the person concerned or others’.

And even this can only be done in a mental health institution - which Aramghar is not.

“The restraint or seclusion shall not be used as a form of punishment or deterrent in any circumstance and the mental health establishment shall not use restraint or seclusion merely on the ground of shortage of staff in such establishment,” the Act says.

Read: India has a new mental healthcare law, and here's all you need to know about it

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