Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Who are you to tell me not to display my affection publicly?

This scene unfolded in a public park in Meerut, a small town in Northern India, a couple of days ago:
On a crisp winter's afternoon in this small, unremarkable north Indian town, several couples - some married, some not - sat together on the benches of a well-groomed little park named after the country's most famous champion of nonviolence: Mohandas K. Gandhi.

Soon came a band of stick-wielding police officers with television news cameras in tow. They yanked the couples by their necks, as though they were so many pesky cats, and slapped them around with their bare hands. The young women shielded their faces with their shawls. The men cowered from the cameras.

Apparently intended to clamp down on what the police consider indecent public displays of affection among unmarried couples, the nationally televised tableau in Gandhi Park backfired terribly.
Granted Indian society is conservative, but such a crack-down on the "aam junta" (the civilians) is unpardonable especially given the promiscuity of film stars and the sexual content in blockbuster films. Hindi films, the main form of entertainment for the masses, have become more risque in the last five years. The youth are bound to mimic the actions of their idols, the film stars, forgetting that what they see on screen is a dream conjured by the wizards of Bollywood.

I can understand if Hindu religion mandates norms of decency, stating clearly what behaviour is or isn't decent. Wait, isn't there a temple in India with the positions of the Karamsutra sculpted on its walls? You might consider my statement irreverent and impious, so I'll take it back. And though I don't accept the relgious imposition of anything, for the sake of argument, I'll overlook that side of my personality too. What I can't stand for is what I read next:
In interviews on the local college campus a few days after the police raid, students said they frequently bore the brunt of police harassment if they were seen with members of the opposite sex. They are pulled aside, threatened with a stick, ordered to give their names and addresses and released usually only after paying a bribe.
Aah, it's India and a simple bribe can make a person bend his or her belief system. I wish more religious activists can be made to open their minds through either bribes or gifts of money. Wait, they do get gifts of money...

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