Trend is spreading to rest of the state, and perhaps the country as well.
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Read this article at the International Business Times
By Amulya Nagaraj
BANGALORE: A group of people are standing by the road in front a restaurant in Jayanagar, wrapping up the evening with a last smoke before each went his or her own way.
Even as one of them murmurs that it is getting late, another one yells "We better get going before those people come and beat us up for being immoral". The rest of the group joins him but soon the group disbands, nervously looking over their shoulder as two burly looking men pass them on a bike.
"Moral policing" has increased in Bangalore and in a big way too. Late nights, parties, smoking and the pubbing culture that the city was known for is taking a beating. Making matters worse, the trend is spreading to rest of the state and perhaps the country as well.
"Moral policing" is preying on everyone's minds after a recent attack on a homestay facility in Mangalore, a coastal city 350 kms to the west. There are various versions of the story doing the rounds online and in the media, but the general account remains that a group of youngsters were attacked at a birthday party.
The attack was spearheaded by a group of "moral police" who took offence at the fact that girls and guys, perhaps from different religions, were mingling. To emphasise their point, the group took along a local reporter from a media group, who filmed the youngsters being chased and roughed up, stripped of their clothes and made to pose like they were sex workers.
The attack has unnerved many youngsters in Bangalore and elsewhere.
"I'm not really sure what was behind those attacks or the real story... but it just seems you hear more of these incidents these days," said Anisha Chetan, a 26-year old software engineer in the city. "I'm not sure if that is the media hyping it or if it is happening more... I haven't heard much about it in Bangalore, where I live, but I do feel a little more nervous now."
Though the Mangalore incident has caused much outrage among the youth, there are many who defend the attackers arguing that they were merely "protecting" the Indian culture.
India, especially urban India, has witnessed a dramatic and seemingly sudden change in the past decade since the nation's economy opened up to foreign investment. With the advent of new and better-paying jobs, its citizens, especially the younger ones, are now able to spend more on things.
Additionally, the social media and the internet, in general, and constant work-related travel by many young men and women have broadened their horizon and familiarized them with different cultures.
Certain sections of the society believe that an overdose of the "immoral" elements of Western culture, such as women wearing shorter clothes and being provocative, men and women partying together late into the night and worse, are affecting the culture.
And at times they reacted violently, which is what happened in Mangalore.
In fact, the attack in Mangalore was by no means an isolated one. It came on the heels of a similar incident in Guwahati, Assam, where a girl was molested outside a pub.
Journalists played a strong role in bringing these cases to light, but media has also drawn much ire from the public for playing along with the "hooligans," instead of helping the victims.
"Moral policing is an old Indian tradition, following from the sati and caste system," said Shashank Kaushal, who works in the media industry. "It has increased because of misguided morals of those who can move masses with propaganda." He added, "It is no better than misconstrued version of Jihad."
Misconstrued or not, a certain segment of the society seems to believe that a "course correction" is required to keep the society in check. Rapid urbanization has led to changes in many of the social customs. Interactions between opposite sexes have also increased.
"Call centers, late nights and working late with other people whom you do not know... you don't know what happens in these places," said Ramesh S.R, a retired government official. "Who assures us the safety of our girls? It is not wrong to dress well... but there are bad elements in our society and a girl has to take care."
Call Centers and other businesses engaged in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), considered the life blood, especially in a city like Bangalore, have given thousands of people economic independence, but they have strangely been tarred with the tag of "not quite right."
"Our society has always been intrusive and controlling. They want to know what you are up to, and if they do not know that, or cannot understand what you are doing, then it has to be something bad!" Chetan said.
Though many have welcomed the economic freedom that better-paying jobs have brought them, it has also resulted in a clash of cultures both at home and outside. Girls who were constantly under the watchful eyes of parents or guardians suddenly have access to a life they previously saw only in movies.
"I come from a culture where polygamy was accepted, older women of the household fashioned permanent organic tattoos and indulged in tobacco at least half the times," said Vidya Nathan, a reporter. "All that is back in a different form [now]. We've always had it in our cultures. But portraying different forms of these habits as something new, a change and something that is alien has made those habits something to be frowned upon."
Reflecting the opinion of many others who have to work late night, Nathan added, "This is where the media has painted something evil and now screams like a banshee when people come out against it." (Global India Newswire)