Moral Policing In India: Are We Prisoners Of Our Own Conscience?

Posted on October 31, 2012 in Society

By Neeraj Ramchandran:

On the 16th of September 2012, Mumbai’s nightlife breathed a sigh of relief as a certain Mr.Vasant Dhoble was transferred out of the social service department of the Mumbai Police. Does the name ring a bell? He is the same cop who, armed with a hockey stick and a camera, raided many bars and discotheques in Mumbai without a warrant, assaulting everyone in line of sight.

This move comes as a surprise considering the recent statements by the Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik backing ACP Dhoble for his actions and smacks of a possible acknowledgement of his fault. At the same time it has presented a novel case before the society, of the police acting as vigilantes, howsoever paradoxical that may sound. Moral policing has always been a sensitive issue in India given the fact that even in the 21st century; India hasn’t completely made the transition of mindsets going from conservative to modern. More often than not, political parties use moral policing as a pawn for gaining political mileage rather than actually acting on a set of beliefs. The attack on teenage couples on Valentine’s Day by the Shri Ram Sena in Mangalore tells the sorry tale.

Statistics show that crimes like human trafficking and prostitution are more likely to happen in pubs, discotheques and selected eateries. But innocent people who go there to spend some of their free time don’t deserve to be manhandled and attacked. The function of the police is to uphold the law and order in the country. Employing such fear tactics without the requisite authorization (warrant) amounts to a gross abuse of power and a breach of the citizens’ Fundamental Rights; this should be dealt with firmly by the Judiciary.

This issue has depicted India in a very bad light as a tourist destination and any more such cases could send the tourism industry into a nosedive. The only positive thing to come out of it was the unexpected endorsement of Indian Hockey (Yes, that same game we call our national game).

In a country like India, such issues arise because choosing between tradition and modernity is like a choice between chalk and cheese. Some sections of the society are not willing to let go of traditional way of life and they are justified in doing that, but they should be prepared to digest the fact that modernization is inevitable and not come in the way of others who want to practice it. There is no sight that can be more pathetic than that of a do gooder running amok. The police on its part should strive to uphold the law rather than do what they think, is the law.