The Supreme Court has struck down the ban on dance bars, which the state home ministry had condemned in 2005 as fronts for crime and prostitution.
But a closer look into the chain of events that got Mumbai’s most high-profile bar dancer to where she is, is telling of the motivations that drive women into the trade.
Tarannum Khan, the ‘crorepati bar dancer’, who was arrested in September 2005 in a betting racket, had revealed in a statement to the income tax department how circumstance made the occupational choice for her. MiD DAY obtained a copy of her statement. Here is an abstract:
My name is Tarannum Khan. I was born and brought up in Mumbai. My father’s name is Zafar Ulla Khan.
We are a family of six: my father, mother, younger brother, elder sister, niece and me. Every thing was fine until the communal riots of 1992 struck us and our house was ransacked. We were completely destroyed and all our belongings were stolen. My father’s business was exterminated in those riots and we became homeless.
Your honour can imagine the plight, with no money and no house. For a month we were in a relief camp in Millat Nagar, Andheri. Due to these disturbances my father became a heart patient.
He had already undergone two heart operations. He was in no position to provide us the basic necessities of life.
We were literally and practically on streets for three nights, with no food or shelter, in the Lokhandwala area. After three nights on the street my mom was ready to do anything to buy food for her kids.
At the time a female approached us, saying that I could earn money by joining a dance bar. For a pious Muslim family like mine, the mere suggestion was blasphemy.
But I had only been educated till Std XII, and no one with such a qualification can earn decently to shoulder the responsibility of an entire family. I was 16 but I was ready to do anything to provide a roof over our heads. So, reluctantly, my parents agreed.
The first day of my life in this profession is one which I don’t want to remember. Anyway, I started making money, and after a year, I joined Deepa bar and my life turned into a fairytale.
I used to come home at 6 in the morning, eat and go to sleep at 7 am, then get up at 4 in the afternoon and get ready to go to the bar, where I was on my toes for 14 hours every day.
As I began earning handsomely someone advised me to file returns… Since I was too young to understand about tax and savings I hired the same CA who used to look after the account of Deepa Bar… Due to my ignorance and his unprofessional approach I never got guidance in financial matters.
Under the impression that all is going perfectly well, I was in for a jolt when I-T authorities raided my house for a disproportionate filing of tax. Later, I was dragged into a scam and imprisoned. After I came out I realised I had been misguided by my own CA.
She concluded her statement with an apology for delay in complying with law, but added that she was not a defaulter by nature, only out of ignorance. “So please see to it that innocent persons should not start life from scratch,” she had pled with the authorities.
A full circle
RR Patil had in 2005 decided to crack the whip on dance bars and bar girls in the state, saying that they were perverting youth and promoting flesh trade. He imposed a ban, which led to the shutdown of more than 700 dance bars across Mumbai and Maharashtra.
Dance bar owners and women’s rights groups had waged a war on the decision in the Bombay high court, submitting that it took away the bread and butter of hundreds of women. The HC, in April 2006, ruled in their favour, leading the state to appeal in the Supreme Court, which ordered the bars shut till its verdict in the matter.
Yesterday, Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice SS Nijjar said the bars may be back in business after reapplying for requisite licences.