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In a deplorable case of moral policing in Kolkata, a young couple travelling by metro last Monday night was reportedly thrashed by angry co-passengers for embracing in public. Eye-witness videos of the incident show the couple being harassed and physically assaulted at a metro station after they deboarded. Although no complaints have been filed at the time of writing, the incident has sparked protests calling for action against the assaulters.
While moral policing is a menace across most parts of the country, the Kolkata incident has caught attention for a couple of reasons. First, the fact that it happened in a metro — a modern form of public transport that is considered to be relatively safer — has the public alarmed. Second, residents of Kolkata believe the city to be cosmopolitan and open-minded where women, particularly, enjoy safe public spaces. This doesn’t seem to reflect ground reality as several incidents including the 2012 Park Street rape case show. With each such incident Kolkata’s ‘bhadralok’ veneer stands exposed.
Ultimately, moral policing is a symptom of poor law and order. In Kolkata and Bengal, the politicization of the police force has created a culture of impunity where those affiliated to the ruling party of the day think they are above the law. This mentality percolates to the masses, making people think they can take the law into their own hands. This is precisely what happened in the metro incident where a group of commuters perceived something to be objectionable and decided to deal with it themselves. Only effective, professional policing can remedy this situation and encourage victims to come forward to register their complaints. Those standards are clearly missing in Bengal.