October 25, 2005

How Indian cities are now resembling Saudi Arabia

Stupid Fucks. All the politicians and policemen are illiterate villagers. Why do they remind me of the Religious Policeman's journal?


Forget the fate of Mumbai’s dance bars. Forget 12 am deadlines. Even before the lip-locked couple in a Chennai nightclub was hounded by the city’s police like criminals, Bangalore was out to stop people from dancing. Across the country’s metros, the moral police is clamping down on ordinary citizens like never before. In the capital, nightclubs can remain open until 1 am, only with a special licence. In Bangalore, it’s strictly

11.30 pm. Policemen roughing up couples holding hands in public is not unusual in most cities. The Kolkata police chased a couple travelling in a taxi with arms around each other. The Chennai police booked escorts of young girls on the grounds that they accompanied the girls to public places without ‘‘parental consent’’. In Mumbai, once the Mecca of liberation, police stations by the sea are on alert all night to spot ‘‘indecent behaviour’’. Policemen scanning beaches with binoculars is a common sight.

Mumbai, in fact, was the first metro to clamp down on every form of individual expression. Ban on rock shows, burning of film posters, legal suits against nude models—the BJP-Shiv Sena government spared little in the mid-’90s. Yet, moral policing has never marched so deep into cosmopolitan Mumbai like it has over the last year. ‘‘After RR Patil’s initiative to ban dance bars succeeded despite so much protest, anything is possible. Mumbai today is definitely not the coolest city in the country,’’ says ad man Prahlad Kakar. The police picks up couples on promenades on an ad hoc basis, but the official justification: Section 294 of the IPC, which deals with indecent exposure and obscenity. Under this section, 43 couples were arrested on charges of indecent behaviour at Bandstand, a promenade in suburban Bandra, in 2004.

Patil’s morality con had repercussions in Bangalore, a city that was beginning to hot up as a nightlife hub for young professionals. Under the guise of regulating dance bars, the city police introduced a new law that has virtually banned discotheques and live music, clamping down even on snooker parlours. Forty-nine establishments have sought licences for dancing and live music under the Licensing and Controlling of Public Entertainment (Bangalore City) Order, 2005, but none have been granted the permission.

Soon after the furore over dance bars, Chennai’s youth were in for a rude shock. While the now famous kissing couple paid heavily for a liberating nightclub moment, the vice-chancellor of Anna University, D Viswanathan, has banned the use of cellphones and prescribed a dress code for students in 277 engineering colleges. If implemented, students cannot wear ‘‘tight-fitting outfits, skirts or sleeveless clothes’’. It will even bar them from wearing jeans.



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