| Look over your shoulder
Hyderabad, April 10: Lovebirds beware! A band of about 100 men will be on the prowl in Hyderabad's parks, scanning the greens for students looking for a moment of precious intimacy.
The Federation of Culture Upgradation and Social Services (Focuss) was launched yesterday to wage a campaign against kissing and petting in public places, especially parks.
Mohsin, a 55-year-old ex-serviceman who is the honorary secretary, said they would pick out 'errant' teenagers in school uniform and counsel them.
B. Ramesh Kumar, a member who retired from the state police force five years ago, said a survey has found that it is mostly schoolchildren between 13 and 16 who go to parks looking for private space.
Such youngsters are often blackmailed and abused by local thugs who catch them getting physical, he added. 'More than six out of 10 cases of young girls running away from homes is due to such acts.'
Focuss chose Ugadi, the Telugu New Year's Day today, to launch its campaign, distributing pamphlets in parks, cinema halls, temples and community centres.
It also plans to offer guidance to victims of blackmail. 'We will observe confidentiality and work under the umbrella of the police, if needed, to nab the culprits,' said Purushottam Rao, another member and a former postmaster.
Mohsin proposes to open branches in other cities in the state to counsel young victims of harassment. But, he added: 'For enlisting our support, they should vow not to do such acts in public.'
Focuss has drawn up a charter which prescribes that every member should oppose display of affection between the sexes in public.
'Members should accost men and women who dress indecently or misbehave in public,' added Purushottam Rao.
The charter says:
• Kissing and petting in public should be discouraged
• A campaign should be waged against indecent dressing in schools and colleges, by teachers too
• Protest should be made against screening of adult movies in public places, outside cinema halls
• Drive should be launched against wild parties in hotels
• Campaign should be run against 'wild rituals' and women-only pujas in some ashrams and temples
The outfit's members ' most of them retired men who meet on morning and evening walks ' have planned to break up into teams that will patrol about 10-12 parks to start with. They will be armed with identity cards and are also planning to get a stamp of approval from the police.
Law-keepers generally welcomed the moral police, only wondering whether they would be effective.
A senior officer was sceptical. 'Everybody preaches morals. One has to see whether Focuss is really for social good or just a club of some dirty old men who want to spoil the pleasures of the young,' he said.
The city police have launched a major offensive against dance bars that have opened in the city over the past two years. 'This used to be a nawabi passion.' But dancing girls are now available for Rs 100 in bars and, outside the city, in dhabas,' said police commissioner Dinesh Reddy .
Women's organisations, which have been running a campaign against dance bars, have also not warmed to Focuss.
The problem should be solved at the root, they say, and suggest allowing boys and girls to meet freely in schools. P. Sandhya, a prominent member of AP Mahila Samakhya, said if teenagers are allowed to interact with the opposite sex in schools, they will not head to parks and there will be no need for moral police.