Batch of 2016
NALSAR University of Law
[As I finish this note, there are reports of the AP Government having ordered pubs to make women leave their premises after ten O’clock at night (So that even inebriated women are thrown out into the streets, only to be at the mercy of the darkness?). Bravo! Mr. Reddy. You da man!
Although I hope for a PIL to be moved in the AP High Court contesting this ban on the grounds of being in violation of the principle of equal treatment for all, I am not at all surprised at this move. What more can be expected of a system that deploys most of its policemen for VIP and VVIP security, a system that seeks to garner political support, not by working for its people, but by waiting and watching until a woman is raped, and implements populist measures such as appointing committees and doling out grotesque amounts of compensation to the victims. These people, this system, will never learn that victims need support, not charity. And that crimes against women need to be prevented, not used as political mileage.]
While this post started as a knee-jerk reaction to the harassment faced by my college seniors at the hands of some really outrageous media reporting, the context is far wider. I must start by pointing out that the reason for which these students became soft targets- (1) They were girls, (2) They were wearing what the news reporters and politicians allege were ‘revealing’ clothes, and, (3) They were in a club (possibly drinking). (And then the whole talk about how this one girl in the video is going wild, and how this is what happens to people when they drink.) What was more shocking was how some voices within the University (not students) echoed these very sentiments, about how what these people had done was against the morality of the society. To the extent, that a person whom I shall not name (a woman herself, mind you) blamed it on their clothing. Did none of these people for once try listening to what the girl was saying in her fit of anger? All she is doing is yelling at the guy who had been filming a video of my friends about the consequences that he stands to face. What else would you expect any self-respecting girl to do in such a situation? So, she was hurling abuses at the guy? Well, I can think of no rule book that talks of the use of expletives in speech as being the monopoly of men. It is only appropriate then that any people who are passing snide comments about the video first watch the video and listen to the girls’ side of the story before passing any value judgement.
This occurrence is a part of a bigger issue- the debate about pub-culture, drinking, short dresses, and a lot many more things, which people often claim are against the morality of our society. To the detractors of these so called ‘immoral’ activities, I pose a few questions- What IS morality? When you talk of the morality of ‘our’ society, who is the ‘our’? Does the college going, city/town dwelling population of students not form a part of the society, in their capacity as adults? It is these questions that in my opinion encompass the essence of the debate about morality, and I shall attempt to answer them here.
Most definitions of morality have one thing in common- they largely agree upon the fact that it is some sort of code of conduct that a society decides to impose upon itself. Point being – a society decides what its conception of morality is. Therefore, if it is left to a society to decide for itself what these standards ought to be, it is but natural that all members of the society, at least the adults, get to voice their thoughts on the same. How is it then possible, that what people of a certain age group do (re: clubbing and drinking in pubs, in the present context) is branded immoral by another group of people? By what authority do these people take on this moral high ground?
It seems that somewhere, they are confusing religious morality with the dynamic nature of societal norm-making. The difference between the two is this – Religious morality is a matter of the private sphere and extends only to people who choose to be bound by them, to the extent that so choose. Societal norms, on the other hand, have to be based on a broad consensus – a definition as to what acts will and will not be permitted within and outside the private sphere of any individual. And these apply to each and every member of the society. Drinking and smoking (in public space) fall within the ambit of this. Conversely, so does gambling (as part of festive celebrations). Despite being illegal, it continues to be a socially accepted activity, so long as it does not take the form of public nuisance, and as far as it does not become attached to other illegal activities. And this is so, not because some moral preachers endorse gambling, but because the society as a whole believes that it holds no harm in this form. What then, forms the rational basis for policing and rejecting pub culture?
A question might be raised here about toeing a slippery slope- about how, by the same logic, anything which a sizeable number of people engage in could be regarded as moral. However, the difference would lie in the fact that the activities I’m advocating here do not affect people other than those engaged in them, and hence do not fall within the ambit of the same debate. And when drunken people coming out of pubs do cause public nuisance, what stops the law from treating them the way they’d treat any nuisance monger? The fact they would get away by virtue of being ‘badi baap ki aulaad’’ is an inherently self-defeating argument t- How can the inefficiency of the State and its police force serve as an argument to suppress personal freedom, so long as the latter is affecting no one adversely? Were this so, even late night driving, especially on Saturdays ought to banned, for there are people who despite being drunk will get away, by virtue of the only so familiar line, “Tu jaanta hai main kaun hoon? (Do you know who I am?)”. The absurd example is only to demonstrate how shaky such a case, if ever put forward, would be.
I therefore wholly reject the terming of pubs and discotheques as ‘immoral’ and ‘indecent’. In fact, I would not be surprised if the very same people- who created such a furore in the first place- go home at night, down their daily quarters, and then beat up their kids and wives. I highly doubt they understand what morality, ethics, and decency mean, for if they did, my friends would not have faced such harassment and even physical assault at their hands. As for those who think women ought to stay indoors, so that they do not get raped- I know you’d say the same if (god forbid) it happened to someone close to you. How you would look that someone in the eye when you say this, I cannot conceive. If anything, pubs and hookah parlours serve to provide convenience and safety to members of the public who wish to seek an escape from their hectic and mundane daily lives, while ensuring that they keep away from those whose morals do not allow them to appreciate the same. So long as you merely voice your discontent, it is all very well. It’s a free country- we believe and practice so, and hence respect your right to voice your opinion. Nefarious elements do exist. They aren’t so because they are drunk, but because they are inherently fucked up in the head. Do not blame honest, upright citizens in their stead. Remember, you can only direct as much aspect of someone’s lives as adversely affect a significant aspect of yours.
Lastly, a word of warning to all such preachers, detractors, and morally uptight folks: We are the generation you will depend on tomorrow, on whom your fate in the future rests – DO NOT MESS WITH US!
This poem, I wrote after the Delhi rape incident-
Shades of grey cannot hide, the silhouette of black
In the white of the moon
On the bed, and she is a figurine of your lust
Whom you hide from yourself.
Where then does the light come from
When the clouds cover the moon
Her radiating purity blinds you
And in your pain, your confusion
Your lust consumes her.
Is she now polluted for she consumed your lust?