By Syed Ali Mujtaba
The news of the Supreme Court’s intervention in freeing some twenty-two mentally-ill persons chained at a faith-based mental centre in a Dargah in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh is bit surprising.
Surprising not because the mentally ill people were freed at the orders of the Supreme Court but because the Apex Court has jumped the gun without going into the merits of chaining and taking into account only the human rights angle.
Here, the important thing to consider is the symptoms of mentally diseased and the treatment available to cure them. Sometimes mentally ill patients suffer from mood disorder, bipolar affective disorder, anxiety, depression, hypertension and schizophrenia. In such symptoms some patients are violent and uncontrollable and have to be kept in chain to administer them medical treatment.
The Badaun district authorities acting on the Supreme Court’s observations freed the 22 mentally-ill patients and handed them over to their family members. They never considered that these patients were brought by their family members to such a healing centre because they were unfit to live in the society as they were creating social tension. The mental asylums after admitting the patients had put them in chains because that’s the only way they can start the healing process.
So before pronouncing judgment on such cases, SC may have a thought how best such mentally ill patients could have been treated and in such context may have underscored the utility of faith based mental healing centre and have suggested ways and means to improve the mental health care treatment.
The Badaun Dargah is one among many much mental care spiritual centres in India. The Erwadi Dargah is another such mental health care center in Tamil Nadu. This faith based mental center hogged the limelight in 2001, where fire broke out there, burning alive some 40 mentally ill patients who were chained and unable to escape the flames.
The Erwadi Dargah is 200 years old faith based healing centre for mentally ill patients in Tamil Nadu. It is the abode of Hazrat Sultan Syed Ibrahim Saeed who died in 1792.
The Erwadi Dargah incident was one of the most horrifying tragedies in the recent times. However, much water has flown down the bridge since then and now. The Tamil Nadu government has totally revamped the treatment pattern of the mentally ill at the Dargah, while still maintaining the sanctity of the spiritual based healing process.
The Tamil Nadu government in 2013 launched Mental Health Programme at Eawadi Dargah and launched a comprehensive mental healthcare scheme called the ‘Dawa-Dua’ programme. The government while acknowledging the spiritual healing power of the Daragah, opened a psychiatric clinic to scientifically treat the patients within the Dargah premises
Initially there was some resistance for setting up the clinic in the dargah as some people believed that mental illness is due to the evil spirits captivating the body and can be freed by prayers for forgiveness by the spiritual healers.
However, after some persuasion such people were convinced that the medicines can work inside the dargah premises more better because its power may magnify by the blessings of the holy ‘Saint,’ who lies buried in the shrine.
Soon after the setting up of the psychiatric clinic under ‘Dawa-Dua’ programme, the tarnished fame of the healing power of the Erwadi Dargah increased many fold. The news of the astonishing treatment under clinical and spiritual guidance sunk well among the people who started flocking in the Erwadi Dargah once again.
The shrine receives 1000 visitors each day some being mentally ill patients. Those having violent symptoms are chained within the dargah’s premises after that they receive treatment at new psychiatric clinic, “Dawa-Dua”. Its only after their nerves get cooled they are set free to carry out the rest of the treatment till they are fully cured. There are reports that more than 1,000 patients have so far been cured since the launch of the launch of the “Dawa-Dua” programme.
So successful is the programme that it has sparked interest among other religious community especially Christian faith and they are visiting the Erwadi Dargha to study the programme to replicate in their own religious establishment.
Boyed by the successful implementation of the ‘Dawa-Dua’ programme, the state government has earmarked an additional Rs 7.5 lakh to build a 50-bed psychiatric hospital at the dargah premises.
The faith based mental centers especially the Muslim shrine are dotting the Indian land scape. In such places, the arguments over faith versus science do not work. Mostly destitute and poor flocks to the Dargah to get cured through the spiritual healing process as they believe that the evil spirit from their body can be warded off only through faith based healing process. So one can say what one want about such faith based healing system but the fact remains that the results clearly explains that it is inexplicable and to which modern science have no answers.
It is due to its social pull factor of the Erwadi dargah that the Tamil Nadu government has established a psychiatric clinic there. The mentally ill here get psychotherapy treatment and also spiritual healing at the Dargah premises.
It would be in fit of things if the Supreme Court had ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to revamp the mental centre at the Badaun Dargah on the lines of Earwadi Dargah. Even, it could have passed a suo motto order that all such faith based healing centres should be upgraded as faith and science healing centers.
However, euphemistically one can say that just like the statue of justice that is blind folded, the learned seers of justice have delivered the judgment missing the trunk from the branches of the tree.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org