(Im)moral policing

Updated: Feb 07, 2009, 00:00 AM IST

Abhishek Singh Samant

Moral (or rather immoral police) has once again raised its ugly head and expectedly, in an ugly manner. Yes I am talking about the recent attack on women in a pub in Mangalore by the members of a nondescript Sri Ram Sena (SRS), ostensibly to protect the Indian culture as according to this self-styled brigade, pubs are alien to our culture and women in pubs are even more alien.

With so many Senas in India – Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the others of their ilk, apart from, of course the Indian Army - people should have felt relaxed and more secure. But on the contrary people feel terrorised by such Senas barring the last one.

People would be curious to know as to what this newly formed Sena and its foot soldiers are all about. It is nothing but an old wine in a new bottle. Like those associated with other extremists right-wing groups, the members of the SRS are self-appointed (with their distorted mentality, they anyways must not be good enough to be appointed by someone else) custodians of Indian culture.

But what I would like to know is who on earth are these handful of hooligans to protect or protest something that any one of us among a billion people may choose to do. Further, what is this monolithic culture that they are trying to protect?

Is Indian culture exclusively Indian?

If such rag tag entities are so intoxicated with destroying anything that is alien to the Indian culture, then they should destroy that very culture which is an assimilation of several cultures, some of which do not belong to this land.

Further, the so-called Indian culture, with which such groups are so obsessed, has predominantly Aryan imprints and even a cursory glance at eighth standard History books will be enough to know that Aryans came from the Steppes of southern Russia and Central Asia (alien lands with an ‘alien’ culture). And a majority of the Indians, especially in the Indo-Gangetic belt, are a descendents of those Aryans and as such outsiders. So these brigands may very well think of destroying them. The very thought of such an act is horrifying

Have these flag bearers of Indian pride ever given a thought while munching those spicy samosas? If not, then they should know that this delicious samosa is as alien as the pub and had its origin in Central Asia (not an Indian land by any stretch of imagination).

Several things of our daily use are in fact imported from other countries. Will these vandals discard those things? Not only this, even several words which we - and even those moral policemen – use in our day-to-day conversation, are adopted from Persian, Arabic, Latin, English etc. So what should be done to these anti-social elements if they use such adopted words?

If women in pubs are a thing alien to our culture then assaulting women isn’t in our culture either. So which culture were they trying to uphold by indulging in something as demeaning as physically attacking women.

Going by their definition and perception of Indian culture, they should have come to the pub in chariots, horses and elephants (which I don’t think they would have) as the concept of car and motorbikes has been imported from the West. They are as guilty as women in the pub, i.e. if those women are guilty at all.

Is it really about protecting our culture?

I don’t think so. Rather than being the custodians of Indian culture, the members of the Sri Ram Sena and other such groups are - in effect - the custodians of male chauvinism and destroyers of our culture, aiming to promote their own exclusionist political agenda. Such hoodlums are distorted Indians shaped by extremist ideologies with a view to create their own sphere of influence. They are propelled by a mindset, which sees women as subordinate and inferior. They forget that women occupy a place of prime importance in Indian culture. These people exploit the notion of culture and use it as a shield under which they try to disseminate their sick ideology.

Role of the government

It is really painful and a matter of concern to see that small groups of people can hold the civil society to ransom by the use of violence and assault our collective liberties without breaking a sweat.

The statement of Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yedyurappa, that pubs are a source of violence and his suggestion that if there are no pubs there will be no unrest, shows a pathetic attitude towards the problem. Tomorrow, he might say that if people stop earning then there will be no place for thieves in the society.

Lack of will and ability on part of the state governments to deal with such anti-social elements is troubling and it is this lackadaisical attitude which emboldens them. This holds true for all troublemakers – be it Raj Thackeray in Maharashtra or those, who attacked churches in Karnataka last year. The administration acts so slowly and in such a callous manner that citizens prefer to do away with their rights so as to avoid the wrath of these goondas. The government needs to deal with such elements in a swift and effective manner.

Need of the hour

We express anguish and dismay at the happenings in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas where Taliban and religious fanatics are imposing medieval laws, and brutally killing people and restricting their freedom, especially women, in the name of Islam. But we must remember that happenings – like the recent attack on a pub in Mangalore – may differ from the atrocities of the Taliban in magnitude, but not the mindset.

It is high time that strict action is taken against this right-wing extremism and it is nipped in the bud or else such tragic incidents might turn out to be a prelude to India’s Talibanisation.