Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Moral Policing - Pune Nightclub Incident

I have a problem with this phrase – Moral Policing. Because these two words, that briefly mean, “the effort of a select few individuals to ‘protect’ India’s ‘culture’ against ‘western influence’”, can cover all manner of sins.

Case in point is the rounding up of 300 individuals who were partying in a nightclub in Pune, their subsequent detention and the harassment they went through for over 12 hours, being held, without food or water, at the venue.

This nightclub, which has a restaurant attached, located in the suburb on the Eastern side of Pune is known amongst party goers as a hip place to hang out in, where the music is good, the dance floor large and the crowd that comprises of mostly techies and working professionals, (which would qualify in clubbing parlance as a ‘safe’ crowd,) a place devoid of hooliganism, where groups of women (unaccompanied by men) can have fun without the fear of groping, or soliciting.

Pune rural police that swooped down on the club say that the party organisers didn’t have requisite permissions and a large quantity of ‘illegal’ foreign liquor was being served. The party continued way beyond midnight and while rumours were agog about the presence of narcotics there is no concrete evidence so far to prove that guests were using drugs.

So far, it doesn’t seem like the guests at the party were indulging in any nefarious activities other than drinking, dancing and having fun. And this is where the problem is.

This was no rave party nor a private party; the attendees paid Rs 1000 per couple as an entry charge for a night of dancing that was advertised on a radio channel too.  It was a typical Saturday night out for over-worked professionals who like letting their hair down.

Unfortunately what we are witnessing is that lawmakers are entrapping themselves in these dual roles – one of law enforcers as the police and the other of morality enforcers as moral police.

If the organisers were flouting rules (such as closing time) or didn’t have requisite permissions, why were 300 guests detained and held for hours without food or water? If the police suspected underage drinking, why were those who are of legal drinking age not allowed to leave?  The onus of serving liquor to underage guests lies with the organisers, then why were others detained beyond a reasonable time?

The media meanwhile, indulged in hyperbole so typical of the moral brigade terming the action of the police a “raid”. They went berserk on the so-called statistics of the so-called raid – “There were Iranian nationals at the party” – (Is there a law against foreign nationals enjoying an evening out?); “The party was even attended by 110 women” – (What does “even by women” imply? That women cannot have fun in a nightclub?); “Some boys and girls were found in compromising positions” – (Compromising position? Have they been inside a cinema for a matinee on a weekday, where the cover of darkness hides a lot more than a compromising position?)

Hypocrisy is the benchmark of moral policing – the same brigade that has a problem with smoking, drinking or dancing but won’t bat an eyelid nor raise a furore when a porn star turned actor is the chief guest at Dahi Handi celebrations in this very same city.  This moral police won’t save the dignity of a girl being groped in public by lascivious men, but will mind if girls mingle with the opposite sex at their own free will. This same bunch of people who claim to uphold the culture of our land will stand by and do nothing when two young men are stabbed and killed for standing up to their girl friends in Mumbai.

Moral Policing – actually sounds like the only implement that these select individuals have to mete out their fanatical, hypocritical and diabolical ideologies on the youth of this country. The detention of these guests is an unfortunate occurrence and must be condemned by all those who believe that as long as they function within the ambit of the law, their right to have fun should not be violated by anybody – not the “police”, not the “moral police.”

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