Mumbai, Oct. 20: A leaflet a day, keeps lovers away.
The city police have undertaken a “moral” drive to “educate” lovers at Shivaji Park in central Mumbai. The Shivaji Park police station has drawn up a list of dos and don’ts for couples visiting the park, possibly a first for a police station in the country.
While some residents of the area are up in arms saying this is moral policing, the police say the lovers are a menace, polluting the “moral environment” in the park and making it unfit for residents, many of whom have been complaining.
Over the past two weeks, the police have rounded up several couples. But many more have been handed the literature, a leaflet written in Marathi, laying down in eight clauses the code of “appropriate” behaviour.
“Kissing, hugging, touching or sitting close fall outside this code, an officer said.
“Savdhan! Savdhan! Savdhan! (Warning! Warning! Warning!,” the leaflet begins. “Welcome to Shivaji Park with your sweetheart. You are requested to sit apart from each other, maintaining a proper distance. Don’t indulge in indecent behaviour because ladies, senior citizens and children are around you.
“If you indulge in indecent behaviour, you will be booked under Section 110, read with Section 117 of the Bombay Police Act, and asked to make a deposit of Rs 1,200. If you don’t have the money, you will be put in the lock-up. Please behave properly and don’t give the police a chance to take any action against you,” the leaflet concludes.
“We want to educate lovers more than taking action,” says Nandkishore More, an officer. “We have rounded up around 15 people in two weeks. But we have distributed many more leaflets and the untoward behaviour has come down a lot,” he says.
“Officials at the station put their heads together after there were many complaints from residents of the area and drew up the list. Every evening, some policemen drop in at the park, some in plain clothes.
“The plainclothesmen keep a watch on the couples. If they feel a couple is about to indulge in obscene behaviour, they alert the uniformed men who give the couple the leaflet to read and talk to them. But if the couple has crossed the ‘limits’ of decency, they are rounded up and taken to the police station, where they are asked to make a deposit of Rs 1,200 per person,” he adds.
“Mostly, these couples are college-goers, so we want to give them a chance before locking them up,” More says.
But some of the residents feel this is another way of police harassment. Prashant Mayekar, who with two other residents has collected around 300 signatures of people protesting the police drive, says this is interference with a couple’s privacy.
“Kissing or hugging can’t qualify as obscene behaviour. I stood for an hour at the park and 150 people signed on the petition,” he said. The protesters sent the petition to chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh today.
But seating arrangements in public space seem to be a concern for Mumbai authorities. Though a toothpaste brand has successfully started to sponsor special corners for couples in cinema halls, the authorities don’t feel the same way.
Recently, municipal councillor Babubhai Bawanji removed the double seats at the Parsi Colony Park and replaced them with single seats, to keep lovers away from each other.