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Valentine's Day vandalism and the political economy of policing in India

It’s that time of the year again. Time for fear to stalk hearts that beat with love and longing. Time for the memories of humiliation and harassment in the name of moral policing to haunt those who commit the “crime” of dating. Time for the looming threat of abuse and assault to strike again. Another Valentine’s day is upon us and young men and women across India will risk head shavings, face blackening, public thrashings and forcibly solemnised marriages – all in the name of saving our impressionable youth from the wicked influence of sinful Western culture and its notions of romantic love. Politically-connected petty criminals claiming to be self-appointed protectors of India’s ancient culture will be out chasing


young men and women in card shops, parks, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls, threatening them, abusing them, ransacking private and public property on the watch of the police. Even Kerala, often held as one of the more progressive states in terms of the standard of policing, is not immune to this. Somewhere, gift shops selling Valentine’s day merchandise will be vandalised and forced to shut down. Somewhere, boys will be married off to donkeys for spending the day with their girlfriends. Somewhere, young unmarried couples will be dragged from restaurants and given a public thrashing. More often than not, more predictably than not, more tactically than not, the typical police action will vary from absolute inaction to taking people into preventive custody to imposing Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in order to proscribe any public show of affection tantamount to obscenity in colleges and schools, public or private. Let’s sample these incidents. Balmatta, Mangalore, Karnataka, 2009: The Sri Ram Sene (SRS), or ‘Lord Rama’s Army’, created headlines in January after its members chased, slapped and kicked young women drinking at a bar in Mangalore, Karnataka. Again, on Valentine’s day, its members barged into a pub, Amnesia – The Lounge, at Hotel Woodside, and beat up a group of young women and men a few weeks before Valentine’s day, claiming the women were violating traditional Indian values. Two of the women were hospitalised. The video of the incident later became one of the most watched clips on YouTube, thanks to the TV crew that happened to be ready at the ‘unannounced’ attack. “Our activists will go around with a priest, a turmeric stub and a ‘mangalsutra’ on February 14. If we come across couples being together in public and expressing their love, we will take them to the nearest temple and conduct their marriage,” Sene leader Ram Muthalik had said then. Agra, Uttar Pradesh, 2009: A group of men attacked and used scissors to cut the hair of three young couples in a park near the Taj Mahal on Valentine’s day. Pune, Maharashtra, 2009: Two couples were stopped by Shiv Sena activists and forced to “marry” on the spot by exchanging flower garlands. Pune, Maharashtra, 2010: The city police proscribed, under Section 144 of the CrPC, any public show of affection tantamount to obscenity in colleges and schools, public or private, under the jurisdiction of Pune police commissionerate, from 1 am on February 3 to 6 pm on February 15. Those found involved in the acts of public display of affection would be punished under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code. Shiv Sena city unit chief Nana Wadekar said, “Shiv Sena is against Valentine’s day because it encourages obscene and vulgar acts. So we would extend full co-operation to the city police as in effect they would be doing what we want. Sena activists would be keeping a watch on colleges on February 14 to ensure


that police take action.�

Valentine's day vandalism and the political economy of policing in india  

Valentine's Day vandalism and the political economy of policing in India on Business Standard. Another Valentine's day is upon us and young...

Valentine's day vandalism and the political economy of policing in india  

Valentine's Day vandalism and the political economy of policing in India on Business Standard. Another Valentine's day is upon us and young...

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