Forty nine people, including 21 women and two bureaucrats, were detained after the Pune rural police raided a traditional folk centre (kala kendra) on the outskirts of the city late on Sunday.
The centre, the police said, was a cover up for a dance bar. The police said 20 men and a few women were dancing to the tunes of dholki. Some of the arrested were showering cash on the women.
Vishwas Nangare-Patill, District Superintendent of Police, told Hindustan Times that Saraswati Kala Kendra was raided as it was operating without authorised permission from the District Collector.
Posing as a customer Nangare-Patil, approached Ramesh Londhe, the folk centre’s manager. Londhe asked him to pay Rs 1,500 and said girls ‘would be available’ for Rs 5,000 if he wished to take them outside the centre premises. Nangare-Patil immediately alerted his staff asked them to seal the area.
One of the detained bureaucrats was identified as Baburao Mallikarjun Utane, an officer from the Agriculture Department in Latur. The second person — not identified — is said to be from the same department but from Barshi in Solapur, said Nangare-Patil. Nine of the 21 arrested women have been booked under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act.
"They are not prostitutes but traditional performers," said Ashok Jadhav, president of the Maharashtra Tamasha Theatre Owners Association. Jadhav said the women were wrongly booked under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act.
Such kala kendras have mushroomed in several areas of Pune district including in Chouphula, Yavat, Daund, Bhor, Mulshi and Khed. According to police estimates, there are over 15 kala kendras around Pune. Nanagre-Patil said the police would continue to take action against those that did not have the District Collector’s permission.
The issue however is likely to be sensitive as most kala kendras perform tamasha, a popular folk art in rural Maharashtra. Traditionally, tamasha begins late in the evening and continues till the wee hours of morning during annual fairs.