M D Nalapat
People protest against moral policing.
t is not only in Tunisia, Syria, Libya or Egypt that the ability of cell phones to take photographs and even capture action on video is making waves. A certain Akbaruddin Owaisi, apparently unaware that he was not a resident of Taliban-infested Quetta but India's own Hyderabad, held forth in considerable detail about the sexual prowess or lack of it of males subscribing to a particular faith. The MLA from Andhra Pradesh seems to have considerable interest in the reproductive accoutrements of males of a certain faith, judging by the time he devoted to the subject in his Adilabad speech. And because some enterprising owner of a cell phone recorded Owaisi's speech in full and disseminated in such a manner as to make it go viral online, the entire country is now aware of the nature of the MLA's tendency to aggregate hundreds of millions of widely diverse people into a single, simplistic, category. Owaisi's speech is a cry of pain, of agony, at being forced to live in a secular, multi-religious society rather than in the more pristine environs of a state that cleanses itself of any human beings not subscribing to the dominant faith. Rather than undergo the torture of coming into daily contact with those including, thankfully, the overwhelming majority of India's Muslims who do not subscribe to his hardcore Wahhabi tenets, perhaps it is time that Owaisi began to shop around for an alternative country of residence. This cannot be in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), as all the countries in this group host millions of varied faiths, including that particular faith which our long-suffering legislator seems to loathe the most. Perhaps some corner of Somalia or Sudan will serve the purpose of giving the refreshingly frank legislator a place of residence where there are only hardcore Wahhabis such as the man himself.
Soon, however, Owaisi may not need to relocate to Sudan or Somalia in order to savour the pleasure of living in a monochrome society, such as that sought to be created in Afghanistan by the Taliban. From all across India, an intolerance of lifestyles and views different from one's own has begun to show itself. A few days ago, a corporator from the Trinamool Congress was apparently drummed out of his party because he committed the presumably heinous crime of attending a dance performance by a few leggy women, and actually tossed cash in their general direction. Some snippets of the performance were screened on television, to gasps of horror from studio anchors and discussants, none of whom had apparently been to nightspots in Paris or New York or indeed to multiple such shows across India itself. However, the difference is that such shows and much raunchier variations are ignored by the media in France and the United States.
If even a spot of Dirty Dancing is seen by the mavens of the media and the political class as beyond the limits of tolerance, it may be time for Manmohan Singh to ask Mullah Omar, wherever the man may be hiding, to locate a suitable Minister of Culture for his team. Television anchors who have been with justification declaiming about the "moral police" who seek to enforce their own restrictive views on the rest of society. Amusingly, some of these same television anchors became livid onscreen at what they saw as an intolerable attack on Indian culture, a dance performance and a corporator who hopefully has paid his taxes before throwing the rest of his money away on dancers showing a bit of an arm and a pair of legs, but not much else.
Dirty Dancing is not rape, and to treat the two as morally equivalent is to demonstrate a patriarchal mindset, which lends itself to abuses against women. The women of India have the right to wear what they please, and to be protected from perverts and criminals while doing so. Hypocritical moralising about dance shows and the like will not take away the failure of the Indian state to ensure an environment where democratic freedoms can be exercised, including in one's personal life.
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