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Lovers thumb nose at morality cops

Mumbai, Nov. 19: It’s war out here. But in the battle between cops and robbers, oops, lovers, the latter are proving a mighty foe.

Mumbai police have sounded the bugle for an all out attack on lovers at Bandstand, Carter Road and Marine Lines, but they are giving it back as hard as they are getting it.

Barely a day after the Bandra police rounded up nearly 50 couples for “obscene behaviour”, the Bandstand rocks were dotted with lovers who did not hide themselves from either the afternoon sun — harsh at 36 degrees Celsius — or the cops.

“How many lovers will the police arrest and for what'” asks Sandeep Chowhan, sitting hand in hand with girlfriend Sunidhi.

Ensconced in the crevice of another rock, Makarand says: “This moral policing will have to end. Can you imagine the cops arresting lovers in Mumbai, that too in this day and age' Disgusting.”

In the latest drive against “obscenity in public”, at least 30 couples have been found guilty of obscenity and fined Rs 1,250 each.

The couples were booked under Section 110 of the Bombay Police Act.

The Act says “no person shall wilfully and indecently expose his person in any street or public place or within sight of and in any such manner as to be seen from within any street or public place.”

Those arrested, however, say it is unthinkable to “indecently expose” in Bandstand and Carter Road with policemen popping up like mushrooms.

The police, who have been bombarded by bitter rejoinders from the public, say they acted in public interest.

“All those who have been booked were seen violating the Bombay Police Act,” says Bandra police inspector Samad Shaikh.

But with the war getting bigger and bitter, politicians have now joined in. Narayan Rane, the Shiv Sena’s leader of the Opposition, says the police are harassing couples for money.

The Sena, which earlier demonstrated its own brand of moral policing, says: “There is a shortage of space in the city for couples. They have been going to Bandstand for years. Why are they being harassed now'”

Joining the debate, Sunil Dutt, Congress MP, says: “If young couples coming to Bandstand just sit on the rocks and hold hands, one should not mind. But they, too, have to be careful about what they do.”

Those caught say they were doing nothing wrong. Sumit, an executive with a bank, says that the police bundled him up from a bench facing Mount Mary’s Road even when he told them he had been married for two years.

Even the Bandstand Residents’ Association has turned against the cops. It says the police are lying when they say they were acting on a complaint from residents. “Police claim the residents complained to them, but we did not,” says Kekoo Gandhi, a member. “The police should have been more responsible while rounding up the couples.”

There are also those who support the police action like P.C. Kapoor. But he adds a rider. “The police must ascertain if the couples were indeed behaving obscenely. It can be very embarrassing for decent people to be arrested.” But couples who frequent the rocks remain undaunted. “The police should live and let live,” says 19-year-old Neelem Soni, boyfriend Akash in tow. “Aur phir pyar kiya to darna kya.”

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