How moral is moral policing?
Moral policing in India is nothing new. The recent case in the communally divergent town of Mangalore has just become another example of the desperation for authority among ruling activist groups thriving in the country. For the last 20 years, the town has been suffering under the leadership of religious fanatics.
Recently, a Muslim man was stripped, tied to a pole and flogged for more than an hour at a crowded marketplace. He was accosted while accompanying a Hindu woman colleague after she approached him for a financial favour. Those who witnessed the flogging did not attempt to stop the brutality or call for federal interference because of the influence of the attackers. It was only after local TV channels began broadcasting visuals of the incident that the police were made aware of the incident. They proceeded to arrest 14 Bajrang Dal members for participating in the incident with a suspected involvement of 30 more members.
Just days after this incident, another occurrence of moral policing emerged from Dakshin Kannada. A boy and a girl belonging to different religious communities were suspended for 15 days from their college in Sullia, after other students protested their friendship and demanded action against the two.
One of the major reasons for the continuance of this vigilantism is the support and influences that activist groups have gained over the years in the name of religion. In the second incident, protests by college students managed to influence the decision makers of an educational institution. The supposed misdemeanour they so actively opposed was the religious backgrounds of the students.
These incidents need to be categorised as acts of mob violence rather than moral policing. There is nothing moral in these crimes of religious vigilantism.
Fed up with the various instances of moral policing during BJP-rule, the people of Mangalore opted for Congress, but they too failed to deliver positive results. Ever since the BJP-led government came back to power, Hindu activist groups such as Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagrana Vedike have started systematically harassing minority communities and their institutions.
This ploy to demolish all humanitarian values and democratic principles from the political process will soon expel democracy from India. Instead of respecting secular values, community leaders continue holding power to the state by ingraining fear in society.
In India, no one community is a sole offender or sole victim. These issues are created and suffered by the same group of people. Our democratic values speak about the people of the country as one. Religion should be regarded as something secondary.
We need to start challenging the system. The supposed leaders of the town are not going to be able to gain power if there is nobody to follow their twisted values. We have to urge the blind followers of organisations such as Bajrang Dal to reflect on the repercussions of their actions. The people need to wake up and realise how the power of the country is in the hands of extremists.
Mangalore has witnessed 139 cases of moral policing since January. How many more until these followers learn to move on and initiate change for the better?
Meghana Das is a reporter at The Manipal Journal.
The views expressed in the blog are personal.