In the UK, we tend not to bat an eyelid if we see a person taking a selfie – but that’s certainly not the case in other parts of the world.
Police in India have said that it’s inappropriate for men and women to take selfies together if they’re not married. Why? Because of how close they get to each other in order to fit in the photograph.
According to The Debrief, authorities have arrested several groups of people due to their “morally questionable” selfie behaviour.
This includes a group of seven friends in their early twenties who were trying to take a group picture on the Dahisar Bridge. The men in the group were taken to the police station and fined for “touching” their friends.
A man and a woman, Cheryl Godinho, 25 and Runcil Rebello, 24, were also detained after Cheryl put her arm around Runcil’s waist outside the Oberoi Mall in Goregaon. The pair have spoken to The Mumbai Mirror about their experience, as well as posting about their story on Facebook and Twitter.
The crackdown on selfies and physical contact out of wedlock comes ahead of the Navratri festival, which will draw large crowds to Mumbai later this week.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria has reportedly said the heightened security is designed to protect women from harassment and is not supposed to be a form of “moral policing.”
Moral police out again armed with CP’s ‘new order’
The moral police are out again in full force. Armed with what they call a ‘new directive from Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria to crack down on indecent behaviour’, they will detain you for as much as putting an arm around your friend’s waist, or even hugging one in a group selfie.
In two separate incidents this month, a man and a woman were picked up from outside Oberoi Mall in Goregaon, and two men were detained for ‘touching women’ in their group while posing for a selfie on Dahisar bridge. In both cases they were fined Rs 1200 for indecent behaviour under Section 110 of the Bombay Police Act. And in both cases the cops were not able to explain to the youngsters what comprised ‘indecent behaviour’.
Cheryl Godinho, 25 and Runcil Rebello, 24, who were detained outside Oberoi Mall last Saturday, have since put the details of their nightmarish experience on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter. While the posts on WordPress and Facebook have been extensively followed and commented upon, the tweet has been retweeted many times.
The two men who were picked from Dahisar bridge for posing for a selfie earlier in the month too have now joined in the condemnation of moral policing on various social media platforms.
Cheryl and Runcil had watched an early morning show of ‘Finding Fanny’ at a theatre in Oberoi Mall and had followed it up with a meal at the food court. After stepping out of the mall, they decided to sit on a bench outside to enjoy a bit of sunshine. Cheryl had her arm around Runcil’s waist and they were chatting.
Suddenly, four men and a woman appeared from nowhere and asked the couple to accompany them to the Dindoshi police station. When Cheryl asked them who they were, they identified themselves as cops and said there was complaint that she and her companion were behaving indecently in a public space.
The couple was then bundled into a waiting police van and taken to the police station. In the van, they met another couple who had been detained similarly.
“At the police station they asked us to pay a fine of Rs 1200. When I asked what indecent behaviour they were charging us for, they had no answer,” Cheryl, a content writer and a resident of Dadar, told Mumbai Mirror on Tuesday.
The couple was also told that there was a new directive from Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria to crack down on indecent behaviour in public spaces. Maria, however, denied issuing any such directive. “It is not the antiharassment squads’ responsibility to interfere with couples. I will call the squads for a sensitisation programme soon,” he said.
Abhishek Yadav and Christopher Dsouza, who were picked up from the Dahisar bridge when their posing for a selfie was deemed indecent, had a similar experience.
Ulrika Fernandes, 21, who was with them when the cops swooped down, said: “We were seven friends out to have some fun. I have been part of hundreds of such group selfies. Never thought it was indecent or would offend anybody’s sensitivities.”
When Ulrika and her other friends went to the Dahisar police station, a woman constable, who was part of the team that picked up Abhishek and Christopher, kept telling her to not allow men to touch her. “It was shocking and deeply humiliating. Though she insisted that a guy had his arm around my waist, he actually had his arm around my shoulder,” she said.
Paromita Vohra, writer and filmmaker, who explored the issue of moral policing in her documentary ‘Operation Majnu’, said moral policing is always deeply problematic. “Concepts like obscenity and decency are highly subjective and not sharply defined in the law. The question is whether the police should be assessing situations on a cultural assumption and attitude towards indecent behaviour,” she said.
When Mirror contacted Additional Commissioner of Police Kishore Jadhav, he said cops must have acted upon specific complaints.
He also said that the Dindoshi police have told him that Cheryl and Runcil were in an embrace. Senior Inspector Subhash Daphale, however, said there was no complaint or call received at his police station. “The couple was seated on the bench and was indeed indulging in indecent acts. A police van passing by spotted them,” he said.
Leave a Reply