Hypocrisy of Indian Culture – Moral Policing

People protesting against the ‘indecent’ expression of love on Valentine’s day.
People protesting against the ‘indecent’ expression of love on Valentine’s day.

Judgment is an age-old disease in the Indian society, from the aunties in the neighbourhood to the leaders of our political parties, everybody loves to have an opinion about anything which differs from their own point of view. Having this judgement is acceptable, but shoving our opinions down other people’s throats using violence and force is where the line needs to be drawn.

This is exactly what has been happening in our society with regards to the preservation and enforcement of our holy Indian culture. Recently in order to protect the ‘maryada’ of our society, many groups have taken matters into their own hand. Law has been broken and the privacy of individuals has been exploited at the whims of various groups posing as the guardians of the Hindu culture and its customs.

The beauty of living in a democracy lies in the very fact that people can practise different lifestyles without interfering with or disrupting other societies and their beliefs. Peaceful co-existence is the key to a successful democracy. Sadly, our own country has failed in this regard.

Every year, especially on Valentines Day, groups such as the Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, etc. take it upon themselves to act as the custodian of the Hindu culture. Couples celebrating their love and enjoying the day are subjected to moral policing and face harassment at the hands of these self-proclaimed protectors. In the name of ‘sanskriti’, they act as goons and cause physical harm to men and women alike.

Cases of couples being threatened and made to marry if seen together on V-day have become pretty common in the recent years. Even holding hands in public is labelled as indecent behaviour now, courtesy the moral police. Be it Maharashtra or Kerala or Gujarat, this violation of privacy and fundamental rights happen everywhere in the country.

For instance, in 2009, a group of young men and women were attacked in a private pub in Mangalore by members of the Sri Ram Sena group. The reason cited was that women shouldn’t be drinking in a public place.

Similarly, in 2012, a group of Hindu activists in Mangalore attacked a party of youngsters enjoying inside a private guesthouse and manhandled them accusing them of indecency and violating culture. These activists cried hoarse about Indian traditions and misbehaved with the women present there and assaulted the men.

The stories of members of Shiv Sena and Hindu Mahasabha among others vandalising shops and burning Valentine day cards and pelting tomatoes, Arreststones etc on the couples in public is another incident which takes place almost every year in some or the other part of the country.

What is even more disturbing is the fact that even the police has now started acting as the moral police instead of protecting the law and order in the couThe arrestof almost 15 couples by the Mumbai Police in the hotel raids conducted by it in 2015 came out as a shocking practise of moral policing. The raid conducted in various hotels, lodges, resorts and two-star hotels invaded the privacy of the couples and not only humiliated them, but also infringed upon their rights. This triggered a huge debate on social media with people asking what is wrong with two consenting adults enjoying their privacy.

As a result of the huge backlash faced by the police, the Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order) Deven Bharti passed the order forbidding the use of  Section 110(public indecency) of the Bombay Police Act 1951  as well as Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) under any circumstances. These sections have been infamously used by the Mumbai Police in the past to detain people for petty acts like hugging and holding hands in public.

Despite this, another incident of moral policing came to light in Thiruvanathapuram in February 2017 when a couple was harassed by female police officers in a public park for being ‘vulgar’. The couple, Vishnu and Arathy, made a facebook live video of the episode and exposed the misconduct of police on social media.

The video went viral and Kerala police received huge criticism for misbehaving with innocent couples. As a result, the state police chief had to issue an apology stating that “Police is a law enforcement agency, it is not the moral keeper of the society.” He also made it very clear that no one has the right to disturb or harass any couple anywhere more so in public places.

Yet, another senior police officer commented that police doesn’t act independently on such issues, it only acts after it receives a complaint; therefore such an issue is more of a cultural issue.

There are many more examples of moral policing available in our country; it all simply boils down to culture. While preserving our culture is important, it is also necessary to understand the meaning of culture. Ours is the same culture which is known for the origin of Kamasutra, then how can holding hands or hugging or kissing in public be interpreted as an act of violating this culture ?

How is pissing in public acceptable, but kissing is not?  How can we let some people become so overwhelmed by the need to establish the hegemony of their culture that we allow them to sever the principles of our democracy itself? How do we plan to become a developed nation when we cant even guard the freewill and independency of our citizens? How can we be so concerned with two adults engaging in a consentual sexual activity and have an almost negligent response towards women being violated against their consent?

Sadly, the questions are too many, the answers too few and the understanding too little. The only hope remains that we won’t need to write such articles again for another Valentine’s day in another year.

News Source- Hindu, NDTV, Indian Express

Image Source- ScoopWhoop

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