ByÂ Priyanka Das:
Mangalore and the surrounding areas of north Karnataka have been in the news for moral policing and police brutality in the recent past. Perhaps one of the most famous cases fresh in the memory of the public is of when members of Sri Rama Sena in 2009 swooped down at a pub and began assaulting young men and women, because it was against our culture to have some fun. “These girls come from all over India, drink, smoke, and walk around in the night spoiling the traditional girls of Mangalore. Why should girls go to pubs? Are they going to serve their future husbands alcohol? Should they not be learning to make chapattis? Bars and pubs should be for men only. We wanted to ensure that all women in Mangalore are home by 7 p.m.” said Pravin Valke(founding member). Many of you would probably remember the non violent but quite effective “Pink Chaddi” movement which gained the attention of the whole nation.
The coastal belt is a favourite with tourists, on the eve of Valentine’s Day. This year some 200 foreign tourists were enjoying music around a bonfire at Gokarna near Kudle beach, Uttar Kannada district, Â when policemen gate crashed the party and tried to exhort money. Many of them were beaten up and pulled by the hair. “We offered no resistance, but the police continued to indiscriminately attack us, repeatedly hitting us without any restraint and causing numerous injuries. Some of us tried to leave, but we could not since we were surrounded by police. The violence continued for about half-an-hour, before police allowed us to go”, accounted a witness. The superintendent of police, R Dileep alleged that it was the tourists who had provoked the policemen. He also stated that the department had received information from the forestry department that a party was being held in a reserved area and cannabis being sold by an Indian. Hence, the raid was conducted.
60 foreign nationals retaliated by submitting a memorandum alleging that the police have been extorting and harassing them regularly, they have even been threatened by charging them on false accounts and confiscating their passports and making money in the process. Most of the tourists had fled to a relatively safer Goa. The victims have involved their respective embassies which number around 20.Incidents like this could easily repel foreign nationals who are keen on visiting India, even with the new visa on arrival availability in place, which could lead to losses in revenue that could otherwise be generated from the tourism sector.
The locals have not been spared either, on the 14th of February when the rest of the country was getting ready with roses and parties, in Mangalore the locals kept a low profile in fear of the moral police. This is because, a young couple belonging to different religions had been caught hold off and harassed with the idea that they are going against “our” culture. Last year some college students had been victimized for professing their love. Several similar cases have been brought into attention by the media. It needs to be pointed out that a lot of them are not even reported due to fear of the authorities. In 2012, a home stay birthday party had to bear the brunt of the Hindu Jagaran Vedike, another right wing group which is affiliated with the Sangh Pariver, as they had come to a conclusion that when boys and girls are together in the dark, then illegal activities must be happening. Naveen Soorinje a journalist with a kannada channel who recorded the attack, was clubbed together with the group and arrested by the police. He was released only 4 months later after much of the media fraternity coming to his aid. His record served as evidence in the case. It is of prime importance that the freedom of press is honoured. With several contradictory takes on the part of the various individuals involved, the then chairman of the Karnataka State Women’s Commission, C. Manjula insisted that it was a rave party and human trafficking was involved as well. Investigation revealed that there were no drugs involved.
Everybody loves to draw conclusions especially those in power, statements which are supposed to echo cultural sentiments are most commonly mouthed. Karnataka is largely a peaceful state with tremendous tourism potential which has not been harnessed yet. The peoples’ recreational space has been limited; the nightlife in a global city like Bangalore is practically dead. The state government needs to take necessary steps; otherwise they will be ousted in the next elections. As proven by the fact that the BJP was shown the door, I am not saying that it was the only reason, but it certainly did influence the decision of the voters.
Members of these groups are the ones who need to be prosecuted for assaulting, molesting, invading privacy, character assassination and harassing individuals. The police authorities too need to think before acting and corrupt officials should be investigated. I do not endorse the use of drugs, if there is a strong tip off of drug abuse at a party or any place for that matter; the police are welcome to take the necessary actions. However it is wrong to resort to violent means without adequate reason. As citizens of the largest democracy in the world we have the right to mingle with whomever we want and whenever we want; nobody has the right to stop us. The high handedness of the authorities needs to be checked. Stereotypical ideas of any party being a rave one in nature, especially those attended by foreigners needs to change. We need to be more accepting and tolerant towards love, celebrations and cultural differences, but not towards moral policing or brutality of the legal system.