Friday, December 23, 2005

Moral policing is wrong

There is a big discussion going on in India about moral policing. Some policemen in Meerut (a town in Uttar Pradesh) went on a policing rampage, and beat up a few couples. This sort of stuff rears its head once in a while, and we must prevent this from happening again.

In Bombay, a politician called Pramod Navalkar first started such madness: prohibiting couples from gathering at the beachfront, and in public parks. He was completely against the youth cuddling, hugging, and the like, especially in public places. And since he was a part of the majority party in Bombay, he could rope in the police to implement these questionable ideas.

This policing is carried out almost everywhere, either explicitly or implicitly. Colleges in Bombay have explicit dress codes, and those run by priests are hit the hardest. In a park in Hiranandani Gardens, Powai: a guard once asked me not to walk alongside my girlfriend or hold her hand as we were walking. Just to prove that he couldn't enforce this, I continued holding her hand, walking alongside her. He fumed, but could do nothing. In this situation I was lucky, as the Hiranandani guards have brutally beaten up a kid in the past. (It was over a suspicion of using wrong tokens in game machines.)

It is plain wrong to police such behavior, since it is not illegal.

It takes the police away from their real work: enforcing law and order. It also takes the politicians away from their real work: making laws for its citizens.

Even if you are against cuddling in public, imagine how much damage this kind of policing can do. Imagine if the police could enforce dress codes, and prevent women from wearing red socks. Or enforce that all men must wear hats. The function of the police is to enforce the law, and allowing them to enforce morals instead is a very bad idea.