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Some More Moral Policing in India

March 18, 2009

After the recent furore over the beating up of girls by the Hindu moral police at a pub in Mangalore, India, it seems moral policing has become a national pastime of wayward, unemployed youth in different parts of the country. This time another vigilante group, although a Muslim one, has been trying to put some sense into liquor-consuming and gambling citizens of Khelari in Jharkhand. [CNN IBN reports]

In Khelari in Ranchi district of Jharkhand (India), members of a community were caught beating a handicapped boy and then tying him to an electric pole. The group, which calls itself, Samaj Sudhar Samity, claims that the boy was caught consuming opium.

To punish him, they tonsured his head and garlanded him with shoes. In Khelari in Ranchi district of Jharkhand, a group of Muslims formed a group called the Samaj Sudhar Samity has warned people against liquor consumption, gambling and teasing or face severe punishment otherwise.

(The translation of the comments by the two leaders can be found in the news report)

The leader of Samaj Sudhar Samity, Mohammad Nazeer, warned everyone

“Whosoever would indulge themselves in liquor consumptions, gambling and drugs, we would have to stop all of them. Therefore our community has decided to take action against them. We have already punished two to three persons at night who were found drinking and now this person was found taking drugs. We warned him earlier also but he paid no attention to it and again was found doing the same so he had to be punished,”

Well, OK. I am not entirely against vigilantism per se – after all I do cheer for Batman, Spiderman and Superman when they clobber the evil masterminds of the world 🙂 (although the concept of instant justice does unnerve me). But, does this guy really think that addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling can be cured by shaving someone’s head or garlanding someone with a shoe necklace? Also, isn’t it strange, that the moral-police brigade always chooses to attack the weakest sections of society. People who have no political/economic clout or muscle-power to challenge them back. I am sure India has no dearth of pot-smoking, alcohol-drinking mafia/politicians or rich gambling addicts who spend most of their time betting on horses. Yet, how am I so sure that the moral-police brigade won’t go after them, anytime in the foreseeable future. It would be pretty amusing to watch these chest-thumping paper-tigers running for their lives , their tails tucked securely between their legs, if ever they dare such a stunt that is.

The curious part of the report however was the last paragraph

Khelari is a coalfield area where poor tribals mine in inhuman conditions. They are accustomed to having liquor at all the cultural functions. So the outfit objecting to the liquor consumption as social evil doesn’t pass muster, raising many liberal eyebrows.

Now, is it me or does it seem that vigilante groups are on the rise in India these days (or maybe they are being covered more by our media not for entirely apolitical reasons). Many reasons for the rise of such groups in society have been discussed on the blogosphere.

Some say that poor economic conditions and general lack of employment opportunities for our youth leads to frustration, which in turn causes them to vent out at others. Others claim that rise of vigilante groups are indicative of the failure of our law and order system. Extreme apathy towards the justice system causes these groups to take up justice in their own hands. However, still others seem to think that it is lack of awareness and understanding amongst the general population about how public policy is influenced in a democracy, that leads to such rampant moral policing.

I agree that the real cause lies somewhere in between and is probably a mix of all these factors. But, I also feel that religious teachings plays a significant role in deciding the behavior of such groups. When these groups try to justify their conduct based on religious rules and want to preserve hindu culture, christian values or islamic morals, it makes me wonder – is religion equally to blame?

What do you think?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2009 10:38 pm

    I think a mob mentality is to blame- and religion, tradition etc etc are just convenient covers. I was in Class 10 during the Uttarakhand movement. They wanted a separate state from UP. Fair enough, But the first thing they proceeded to do was to close all schools and declare bandhs in the region. Our parents had to fight to get school re-opened again- the board would not have let us take classes without the required attendance. It was small time local leaders who used it to catapult themselves to a better platform. And it worked for them. “Morals” is another such power platform. Local vigilantism has been very popular in India. The media now gets to know of it and therefore publicizes it more- the boon of technology.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      March 19, 2009 12:09 am

      I agree about local vigilantism. I remember observing such vigilantism as a kid, where some of my neighbours ganged up and beat up another drunk neigbour. His mistake – he used to come home drunk and then would beat up his wife and kids. And, even though I hardly condone such behaviour, I think such behaviour from my neighbours indicate the failure of our law and order system to protect women and children from abusive men.

  2. March 19, 2009 3:44 am

    If not for the cover of religion aka culture (which many ppl assume religion is the only cultural factor of a civilization, duh!) these goons have no sympathy for their actions. Ppl would beat the crap out of anyone who tries to grab a womans ass. However if the woman was drunk and then someone from ram sena grabbed her by the ass and beat the shit out of her and said “this woman is a whore, she is defaming hindu culture” then the number of voices that will condemn this violence against women in my experience/opinion is a fraction of what it would be if the woman had been in her normal state of affairs.

    Religion justifies the ill treatment of a certain sect of people conveniently. God’s have always favored one set of people for another set of evil people based on moral’s we know not how they were derived at in the first place. This is very evident from every theistic practice. A man hanging out with another woman despite being married can easily justify “even lord muruga had two wives, after all im a mere human being” and no one can call lord muruga a polygamist. Why? Because he is “Lord Muruga”.

    You can complain video games are violent and shit and they should be banned but just walk into a temple. You see one person killing another person in the most violent manner, ripping out intestines, beheading, mutilating, burning etc., If you remove the cover of “holier than thou” all of this is pure violence.

    My personal opinion based on observations, religion is if not the sole cause is the major/significant contributor to all of injustice/inequality in our society all over the world without any differentiation.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      March 19, 2009 6:53 am

      Good observations Dilip

  3. March 19, 2009 9:44 am

    I religion is so open to misinterpretation that it is difficult to control what it does.
    That’s dangerous.

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