The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Police swoop on dance bars

Mumbai, March 3: In the biggest raid since the dance bars were closed down on August 15, police arrested over 90 people from two bars in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai.

Thirty-four dancers, 34 customers and 22 hotel employees were arrested last night on charges of indulging in obscene acts. The raids were carried out in Commando Bar in Chembur and Natraj Bar in Tilaknagar.

There were sporadic raids and arrests since the shutdown of the dance bars. But the operation last night was the most organised one, led by the joint commissioner of police, law and order, Arup Patnaik, along with deputy commissioners of police Sanjay Aparanti and Manoj Lohia.

The arrested persons have been charged under the IPC sections for obscenity.

The raid was welcomed by the advocates of dance bars. “We wholeheartedly congratulate the police on being able to put an end to such illegal activity,” said Manjit Singh Sethi, president, Fight for Rights of Bar Owners’ Association, an organisation that has moved the court against the government order.

But the success of the raid only proves how tragic the situation is for the girls, said Sethi. “We have much more information about what is going on in the bars. This is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There is widespread prostitution taking place.”

He added: “We are ready to help the authorities with specific information. But they have to understand that the girls have no choice but to turn to prostitution.”

Sethi also said authorities should not be discriminatory. “The dance bar business was controlled to a great extent by politicians and policemen and many of them would also patronise these places. This week, when the Mobile Bar in Andheri was raided, everyone was arrested, except some policemen who were there as customers,” Sethi said.

He said of about the 75,000 dance bar girls, about 50 per cent have left. But the silver lining, he said, will be the judgment on the government order that is expected next week. “We are very confident of a judgment in our favour.”

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