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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2529

Moral Policing is same everywhere

By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi

Professor Shivji Panikkar who was in Ahmedabad to inaugurate the three-day National Students' Festival for Peace, Justice and Communal Harmony organised by Act For Harmony and Democracy (Anhad) was attacked by Hindu right wing activists.

J S Bandukwala, president of People’s Union For Civil Liberties while responding to the Ahmedabad incidence said, "We condemn the growth of fascist forces against the freedom of speech in Gujarat."

Panikkar is a former faculty member at the Maharaja Sayajirao University at Vadodara. VHP activists barged into the faculty of fine arts on May 9, disrupted an ongoing examination and, by implication, the future of a whole batch of students. It was Neeraj Jain’s moral brigade which was to teach a lesson to Srilamathula Chandramohan, an MA student, and his guru Panikkar how to colour when painting religious sentiments.

Finally Shivaji Panikkar has lost his position as the acting dean of the faculty of fine arts and Srilamathula Chandramohan who found himself in jail for trying to do his best in an MA examination. In Ahmedabad too it was the same moral brigade from VHP- BJP cadre, in hunt for Panikkar, which smashed Shabnam Hashmi's Students' Festival for Peace and Justice where Nafisa Ali was also a guest.

Last year VHP, Bajrang Dal activists burnt effigies of some TV news channels that had taken the lead in condemning the police for beating couples meeting in public parks in Meerut city, barely 80 km. from New Delhi. Wide protests followed after TV channels showed couples being roughed up and beaten by a woman police inspector and her sub-inspector. Public outrage compelled the state government to take punitive action against the guilty police personnel.

Tamil Nadu's Anna University of Technology imposed the non-academic— dress code, restrictions on all female students in 2005. The university also asked its four constituent colleges and 227 affiliates to enforce dress code and a blanket ban on the use of mobile phones on their campuses. The dress code proscribes jeans, T-shirts, skirts, sleeveless tops and tight outfits.

Shiv Sena activists protested against celebration of Valentine's Day across the country last year. They also used force in places like Mumbai and Bhopal to stop the love-birds from using their chosen path. Delhi unit chief of the Sena Jai Bhagwan Goyal and his supporters burnt Valentine cards at Jantar Mantar in the heart of the capital protesting against celebration of "vulgar western festivals."

"Our misguided youth are now acting as agents of western civilisation. When we have festivals like Holi and Diwali, what is the need to import such ashleel (vulgar) western festivals?" he asked.

Hindu activists attacked two Christian missionaries in public in Kolhapur, Maharshtra, allegedly trying to convert lower-caste (SC) Hindus to Christianity. Some TV channels showed activists kicking and punching the two young priests while dragging them through Kolhapur town.

News footage showed an activist knee one priest in the groin, making him double up in pain. Another kicked the missionary in the head. The crowd accused the priests of forcibly converting poor Hindus, and handed them over to police. But a local Christian leader said those SC people had willingly changed their faith. Police arrested the two missionaries on complaints that they were fraudulently converting people.

One Vandana Dwivedi of Dhannideeh village from Uttar Pradesh and Saleem of the same village had an affair since past few years. In early July both Vandana and Saleem ran away from the village. An FIR stating that the boy had kidnapped the girl was registered by her relatives. But on July 12, a number of Muslims villagers gave an application to the DM and SP alleging mass rape of at least 12 women and vandalism by over 2000 moral police including relatives of the girl, some local affluent and rightist political activists on July 10. "Superintendent of Police Luv Kumar and CO Mayaram had been suspended after the incident while Naveen Mishra, SHO Sirsia police station, was dismissed from service as they failed to control the situation," Secretary of Home Mahesh Gupta told the media.

Now one wonders! What is the line of difference between these moral plus private police personals in India including Kashmir and those who were occupant of Lal Masjid in Pakistan till July 12? In May this year the Lal Masjid administration announced that its students would attack audio and video shops, massage centres and brothels in Islamabad if their owners did not wind up their businesses immediately.

"Our students can attack these outlets anytime because the deadline given to their owners had already passed", Lal Masjid khatib Maulana Abdul Aziz said in one of his Friday sermons.

Those in Lal Masjid were and are imposing Shariah or Islamic culture and these in India are imposing Hindutvad or Indian culture through private policing— the ground is poor public in both side of the border.

The Lal Masjid's occupants might have changed by now, when will the moral policing systems in Indian subcontinent change?

M. Burhanuddin Qasmi is the Editor ‘Eastern Crescent’, also a poet and Director of Mumbai based institute ‘Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre’.

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