Public Perceptions of the Pagal Khana
This chapter examines public perceptions of the asylum system and the influence the image of the asylum had on its use by local communities. The chapter focuses on the period 1850–1921 and examines the perceptions of three Indian groups: the elite, the press, and the masses. The interest of the elite in the asylum was restricted to merely funding it for the sake of furthering their own interests. They perceived the asylum to be a place for the poor and destitute. The vernacular press exposed the asylum scandals, complaining of the ill treatment of patients within the asylum. The press played an important role in constructing the image of the asylum as a place of confinement. Local communities avoided the asylum, since they deemed it a punitive custodial institution, rather than one that provided medical treatment.