Couples at public spaces or violence in the streets: What should be the real problem?

The recent incident in Mangaluru where villagers appealed to authorties to prevent couples from 'indecent' activities, speaks volume about how our society is unreceptive to something as simple as love
Over the years,  many busybodies have tried moral policing the love arena
Over the years, many busybodies have tried moral policing the love arena

All mankind loves a lover
— Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Not anymore. Take,  for instance, an incidence that was reported in the media of Mangaluru on March 26, 2018. The residents of Thannirbavi (on the seashore off Mangaluru) appealed to the City Police Commissioner to set up a police outpost at Thannirbavi. “The youth and tourists who visit Thannirbavi beach behave indecently,” said the residents. They met the Commissioner on Sunday and said, “When a group of youth (boys and girls), on Saturday evening, were behaving indecently on the beach, we had questioned them, which led to an exchange of words. There was no assault. They were only pushed. Later, the issue was sorted out amicably and they left the venue.

However, within a few hours, a case was registered against the local residents,” the delegation explained. “We feel awkward when tourists behave indecently on the beach. We do not wish for our children to watch all those indecent acts,” said one. Another said, “Dacoity and theft cases have been booked against the locals in connection with Saturday’s incident. If cases are registered against local youth for objecting to the indecent behaviour, we women will oppose such indecent acts. All the weeds and bushes (greenery) in Thannirbavi should be cleared and CCTV cameras should be installed.”

Let's fix it: Is it too much to demand that designated spaces be provided for lovers so that they can be comfortable?

This is not new for Mangaluru or even Bengaluru. Some years ago, a married couple enjoying an outing on a park bench in Bengaluru were accosted and abused by the cops. They were taken to the police station and further ‘treatment’ was avoided only because the lady involved in the incident was a journalist working for a national newspaper and could contact higher-ups in the police force. The episode is said to have ended with the suspension of the cops involved. I had first proposed to write this topic under the title: ‘Why Hound Out Lovers’ But, since the subject has been dissected in the media and elsewhere, I decided to give the topic a positive spin. What is love all about and why degrade it to the level of crime and feather one’s nest by blackmailing innocent lovers?

One thing is clear — love is a spontaneous union of hearts, often overriding the mind. But, whose problem is it anyway? Many busybodies have tried moral policing the love arena. In Mumbai’s Chowpatty Beach, civic authorities cut scores of shade-giving trees on the plea that they sheltered lovers. In a park in Central Mumbai, benches were removed on the ground that they provided a setting for lovers. The story repeated itself at Kolkata Maidan. The bashing and abuse of lovers in Meerut was caught on TV and gave a new twist to the debate on the right to privacy of lovers and the arrogance of moral policing. It is notable that the victims in Meerut also included married couples.

The present situation has been exploited to the hilt by criminals robbing couples in isolated spots. Even the police exploit the situation by blackmailing couples with the threat of criminal cases. The situation is so bad that we had a drunken cop raping an innocent girl in Mumbai’s Marine Drive Police Station.
What is the way out for lovers? Is it too much to demand that designated spaces be provided for lovers so that they can be comfortable without having to look over their shoulders for signs of moral police and deviant cops? Travellers needing accommodation are provided rooms by the hospitality industry. Perhaps restaurants and public spaces can look into this without worrying too much. It is no business of the State to dam the love tide. Once this is accepted, issues like who should provide the spaces and how they will be maintained are matters of detail.

(John B Monterio is a lecturer who drifted into writing and Journalism. He has authored three books and is the founder of the Bondel Laughter Club in Mangalore)

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