Yesterday, this paper carried a front page report on a ‘sting’ operation, that threw up not so surprising results.
Two young reporters posed as a couple and were spotted together in a car at different fairly isolated spots in the city. Sure enough, it was only a matter of time before cops turned up on the scene.
The first thing the men in khaki did was to rough up the couple with a round of ‘questioning’. The cops then enforced the fact that the couple had committed an offence. This is then followed up by an attempt to extort money (read fine) by instilling fear of criminal proceedings.
When the couple stood their ground, they were coerced with the familiar threat, “call your parents to the police station”. The policemen ultimately ‘settled’ the matter with a few hundred rupees and allowed the couple to walk away.
In a city, where space in scarce, privacy is a bigger scarcity for couples. They are routinely hounded by cops at public places, fined or threatened by so called authorities. This after the police have been asked to stop harassing young couples and have been expressly asked to stop moral policing.
Moral policing often takes place under the guise of Indian culture. We do not live in the dark ages, nor is this a Taliban-ruled country where couples should be targeted and punished.
Many of these couples are easily intimated, powerless or scared of their families. The cops play on these aspects, actually ‘extorting’ money from them, or pushing them into a corner giving them no option but to accede to their demands.
It is then that parents punish these youngsters as they feel humiliated by the police action and have a fear of societal stigma.
The mid-day sting has exposed a number of cops, who must now face strict action. A mere rap on the knuckles is not enough. The action must be a deterrent for others in the force. From the politicisation of Valentine’s Day for publicity to targeting twosomes, Mumbai needs to roll back its kill Cupid reputation but more importantly, let its young live and love without fear.