I have a short and slightly embarassing incident to relate. About ten years ago I was on holiday in India, enthusiastically exchanging saliva with my then girlfriend at a secluded area of a park. The ideal place of choice for a new generation.
A bloody policeman spotted us and decided that arresting us was the best course of action under the pretence of ‘soliciting sex’. Wtf! I was persuaded by my gf that paying him off was a more sensible path of action than trying to use his stick to beat him. Anyway, we both escaped unscathed, though I was a bit poorer.
So why I am I relating this silly story? Well, I was read this story (hat tip Jay Singh) and found it, well, poetic.
Two policewomen have been suspended in the northern Indian city of Meerut for slapping and punching couples who were dating in a public park.
Police were carrying out “Operation Romeo”, which they said was to target the sexual harassment of women.
Anti-police protests erupted after TV pictures showed officers punching and pulling the hair of young women.
Police chief Rajiv Ranjan said the drive was to tackle obscenity but the officers had “clearly gone overboard”.
Overboard – yeah right. I was middle-class enough to buy my way out of trouble, but there are plenty in India who can’t. They are faced with an abuse of power.
Yahoo News also points out:
In Meerut, students shouting “Down with police dictatorship” have staged demonstrations and burnt effigies of police officers.
The outcry, including from women groups, has forced the police to suspend two women officers and probe the incident.
One of India’s most conservative states, Uttar Pradesh is also one of the most crime-ridden, known for gangs indulging in murder, extortion and kidnapping. People in Meerut are amazed that police have the time to go after dating couples.
I’m a bit surprised the Indian blogosphere hasn’t made a big deal out of this, but either way, this incident highlights two growing trends.
Firstly, it is another example of morality in India getting skewed out of control. The police is busy harassing couples in parks, actresses are getting harassed for talking about safe sex and tourists are being fed guidelines – all the while that AIDS is not getting sufficient attention.
What makes it worse is that none of these cases are really about protecting morality (they never usually are), but about groups of powerful people scape-goating the powerless for their own needs. The police, the politicians and the government – they all beat the morality drum when it suits them.
The second point, and the upside of all this, is that growing competition between television and press outlets in India is leading to sting operations that force more accountability.
There are many examples: the big Tehelka.com sting operation that uncovered corruption at the upper echelons of government; Shakti Kapoor caught with his pants down, the more recent ‘cash for questions‘ sting by CobraPost and Aaj Tak (also behind the latest video).
The result is that corrupt power-brokers are being caught like never before and that is most definitely a good thing. Blogging will slowly but surely add to this competition – again a great thing.
The only two worries are that the victims may be the ones easy to catch rather than the real big fish, and that such sting operations may go out of fashion. Maybe foreign competition and ownership may be the saviour in this regard. Either way – expect plenty more such scandals!
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Filed in: India,Moral police,South Asia