Saturday, July 14, 2012

Our depraved society and the police as an ATM machine!

The molestation of the young girl in Assam is shocking and reprehensible but hardly surprising, given the depraved society that we have become. The response of the Assam police chief is equally reprehensible, but again not surprising… many of these chiefs have stunned us with their insouciance and worse. But the chief’s ATM machine remark (“police is not like an ATM machine which can be present at the crime scene the moment one inserts a card in the machine”) does remind one of old Hindi films in which the police always arrived after the hero had finished off the villain! Mr. DGP…. you are right…..the Indian police never come on time!

And even when they finally do come, they do precious nothing. One of the reasons for this is that many of the cops are mentally depraved and on the side of the mob that is meting out punishment to the “erring” woman. The woman in Assam was coming out of a pub after all. What kind of women go to pubs? Dhoble (the latest moral policeman of Mumbai) believes that such women are prostitutes. In the Neanderthal-man-like-brains of such cops, such women deserve to be punished. So they tell themselves: Let’s go a little late. Why be an ATM machine at all.

But if cops are depraved, so is our society. Much of our society thinks the same way about our women. While the press was up in arms against Dhoble, there was a concerted move by some in Mumbai to build support for him. To promote him as a samaritan who was just doing his job. They cited how Dhoble had cleaned up the dance bars in the city; how the poor man was only following the law; how an upright police officer was being unnecessarily targeted and so on.

Our society secretly likes such moral keepers. That’s because our society hasn’t reformed. Our society continues to remain backward. Our society is uncomfortable with the winds of liberalization brought about by a modernizing economy and a “westernized” media. In fact, our society is ok even with the use of violence against such vicious forces of liberalization.

The country has moved on economically from where it was in 1991. But our society hasn’t. Economic progress is relatively easier to achieve. Social progress is not. We have to look towards our education system for clues on why this is happening. Even basic courses like “moral science” are missing from our schools. Children are hardly taught what basic courtesies are; how to respect each other and be liberal in thinking. Where do we expect them to learn all this when they see their parents – who themselves missed all this when they were in school – behaving in uncouth ways; spitting and littering everywhere, mistreating their wives and uttering ridiculously chauvinistic rubbish all the time?

That’s why the same story keeps repeating again and again. Take the other story in the papers today…..about the khap panchayat in a UP village that decreed that women under 40 should not be allowed to have mobile phones? Or wear jeans because “jeans encourage young children to elope”. Likewise the Delhi police chief’s sermon some months back that women must dress appropriately. In a modern city like Delhi, do women have to dress like they would in Afghanistan???? Should he have said such a thing at all or should he have issued a stern warning to the perps who ogle at and molest women? But then again, the Delhi police chief must have got congratulatory messages for his statement.

With our society so depraved, how can our politics stay away? Consider the appeal of this BJP MP from Gujarat who wants a complete ban on liquor and cigarettes from being shown in movies and TV serials. Without doubt, he will immediately find support from several NGOs and the variety. I can never understand this clubbing together of liquor and cigarettes. Liquor in modest measures is not a problem at all. In fact, some may argue that liquor in small doses is actually good for us. Liquor doesn’t become a problem unless it is consumed in large doses. But then so does food become a problem when consumed in large quantities. We have a bigger obesity problem amongst the middle class in our country than we have a liquor problem. The point however is that liquor is unacceptable to our old fashioned society, so calling for its ban is a way for a politician (or an activist like Anna Hazare) to endear himself to the community.

The real truth is the unfortunate truth that the Assam kinds of incidents have the approval of our society. That’s why they will keep repeating. While the government has to role to play by ensuring better quality of education, and bringing the perpetrators to book, social reformers have a bigger role to play. Where are the social reformers….the activists who can devote their time towards the upliftment of society? The Raja Ram Mohan Roys and the Baba Amtes. Till they emerge, our police chiefs will continue to mouth such inanities as the police not being an ATM machine….

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