“Mangalore Horror!” screams one headline. “The Talibanization of India” proclaims another. When 40 men from the Shri Ram Sena set out to beat up and molest five young women in a pub in Mangalore as part of their strategy to instill “traditional Indian values” in today’s youth, they probably did not expect to create such a nationwide stir. Although the state government tried to sweep the incident under the rug, the media coverage has not let up. Arrests have been made, ministers are making the appropriate noises and women’s groups are promising to see that the culprits do not go scot-free. Just how long this uproar will continue before the incident fades into the remote recesses of public memory is anybody’s guess.
However, the fact remains that moral policing is here to stay. Self-styled vigilantism may be curbed by better law and order enforcement. Nonetheless, our democracy guarantees us freedom of expression and this very freedom also supports moral policing. It makes us free to frown upon another and declare them sinners. While this in itself is not wrong—after all everyone is entitled to an opinion—enforcing your views on somebody else definitely is.
Are we not all guilty of that at some level or the other? People from all walks of life, varying levels of education and different upbringings label certain things “immoral” while completely dismissing others as perfectly acceptable. It could range from drinking, smoking or smoking up, premarital sex, noodle straps, live-in relationships, dancing in discos, friendship with the opposite sex and more.
I have a confession to make. I am guilty of this intolerance as well—I frown upon Smoky Joe (Ducky). Worse, I have decreed that he step outside, even into sub-zero temperature, every time he wants to light up.
Am I in the same league as the Taliban, Shiv Sena, Shri Ram Sena, RSS or even Hitler? For an answer, please check with the human ice sculpture outside with a smoking cigarette in its mouth.