Behind the facade of moral policing

By Akrita Reyar | Last Updated: Sep 24, 2014, 18:21 PM IST

Akrita Reyar Yarns have been written condemning the Mangalore pub attack, calling it an attempt to Talibanise India. Much of what has made it to print is infact true. But unwittingly, the incident has also sparked off a debate among the gullible about whether it is our culture for women to have a drink or visit pubs. The fact is that this doesn’t seem to be the point here at all. There is much more than what meets the eye. It therefore becomes essential to lift the lid off the truth.

In Black and White Fact One: Who is this Pramod Muthalik? A right wing bigot, he was increasingly being sidelined by his parent party Shiv Sena and had eventually parted ways with them. Looking for ways to reinvent himself at a time when he was being swept aside as an inessential dreg, he became the head of Sri Ram Sena ostensibly to “serve the society by stopping bad behaviour”. And beneath the veneer of the lofty agenda, he embarked on doing just the opposite and immediately grabbed the spotlight. Struck by the sudden awareness of “Gosh, people know me”, he is now promising to inflict us with more bad behaviour – poking his nose into other people’s business and making a nuisance of himself. That said, light needs to be shed on his dubious past. There are reports of him being wanted by the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad in relation with the Malegaon blast and the failed Hubli bomb incident. He is also reportedly wanted for communal violence against Christians, especially cases related with torching churches. Besides, his party members are believed to have stoned DMK chief Karunanidhi’s daughter Selvi’s house over the Cauvery Water row. And now there is the fresh case of abduction and assault of a CPM MLA’s daughter and another youth. That Muthalik was arrested, granted bail and then rearrested twice is testimony enough that there is no dearth of cases against him. While he, of course, denies the charges, he has nevertheless been ranting about raising Hindu suicide squads; as if we don’t have our hands full with terrorist elements already. About the Mangalore attack, he said that the intention was to deal with the girls as a brother. If Indians are to begin behaving like this with their sisters, assaulting them and pulling them by their hair, then God save us! But the claim coming from a man with a past as scandalous as this, it is not surprising. Fact Two: Who were the goons involved in the Mangalore attack? They are not simply members of Ram Sena out there “to protect Indian traditions and values”. It has been reported that most of the cads have previous police records. Either they are petty criminals or even sometimes rioters. To those who have supported girls being told to vacate pubs, an open question is: Are you willing to make criminals custodians and safe keepers of your culture? Fact Three: The Karanataka government is dragging its feet on the incident and most of those who should have been languishing behind bars are now out on bail. Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, while saying that all action is being taken to maintain law and order, has lent voice against pub culture in consonance with the miscreants. What is lesser known though is that the Shimoga court had recently admitted a plea related with the mysterious death of the CM’s wife Mythra Devi. The lady was found dead in 2004 in a water tank at their family home in Shimoga. The Chief Minister himself is under the scanner for suppressing facts in the case, and the court plans to take a re-look at all the facts. A CBI inquiry is also being sought to investigate the matter, including the CM’s role in the death. This man now wants to protect the traditions of Indian women! Fact Four: Besides the verity that the government has failed in its duty at both Central and State level to curb vandals, there is another question that is not sufficiently highlighted. We need to spare a thought about how inexplicably streams of roughs suddenly emerge whenever there is a riot or a protest or a rally. How easy it is in India to whip up a febrile crowd or to hire a knot of ruffians! The root of the problem needs to be explored and axed. The simple fact is that we have unacceptably high level of unemployed youth, who are happy to raise a ruckus for a few hundred rupees. Such is their desperation to make a quick buck that in some cases of riots they don’t just go on a looting spree of valuables, there have been instances of them picking eggs, butter and bread from refrigerators! Creation of employment opportunities at the grassroots level will help stem the problem to a large extend. Measures must be taken to ensure that vocational education is popularized so that youth start earning guerdon immediately after finishing such courses. For I am willing to lay a wager that no man with a job would care to spend time on the streets, given a chance.

Counterpoint If there was a genuine concern to protect Indian customs or highlight the ill effects of liquor, why were women picked specifically. The health of men must be of equal concern to us. After all the problem of drinking among men in India is infinitely higher than women. There are dozen a dime cases of men squandering money on alcohol even when their poor families are starving. Often they die from the habit leaving their wives and children penniless. But the vulnerable are always easier targets, so obviously the unsuspecting girls fell prey. Why also were more civilized methods like dharnas, forums or street plays not chosen as means to achieve the end of spreading awareness about our traditions? That simply because seeds of creativity do not ferment in dense heads. The fact is that protecting Indian culture was never a motive in the first place. But now that the issue has arisen, let’s set the record straight. The history of Indian epicure is filled with examples of local brews being consumed by both men and women in this country in the past centuries. While the idea is not about whether we should or should not do what we did in the past, we must let the people, in a moderately open society like ours, take decisions about what they feel is in their best interest. And as for hooligans, who take law into their own hands and harass people, they should be immediately thrown into jail and given a severe thrashing; for that’s the only language that they understand.