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Bangalore’s moral policing triggers debate

india Updated: Aug 12, 2008 23:30 IST
BR Srikanth
BR Srikanth
Hindustan Times
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The fizz might soon go out of Bangalore's nightlife. The city, which has turned out celebrity DJs such as Ivan, Rohit Barker and Vachan, witnessed a crackdown on 32 discotheques operating without valid licences.

The clean-up drive has set off a row between a rainbow coalition of artistes, musicians, disc jockeys and glitterati on the one hand and the Bangalore City Police on the other. The officers are being charged with resorting to 'moral policing'.

It could well spur clandestine rave parties and a growth in drug addiction among young people if the places of entertainment are locked up, say those who want the police to end the drive against discos.

The protesters got a shot in the arm when Jnanpeeth awardee Girish Karnad participated in a sit-in on Sunday. "Our intention was to draw the attention of the government that in the name of enforcement of law and order, they (police officers) cannot shut off the livelihoods of people," Karnad told HT.

On Tuesday, Ashish Kothare, owner of two pubs and head of the Association of Bars & Restaurants, Pubs and Hotels, Bangalore, spoke of a steep decline in revenues of these joints ever since the police launched the drive last week. "If this continues, many will fold up and a poor nightlife will also impact the flow of capital into Bangalore. The laws are not clear about various verticals in the entertainment segment like live bands, discos and bars. We urge the government to recognise these verticals and make separate laws for each of them," he said.

Kothare said, "We will be offended if we are called a live band. The crackdown will lead to more rave parties which will ruin the lives of young people," he said.

Police Commissioner Shankar Bidari said his officers were implementing an order and would not harass any entrepreneur operating a disco with a valid licence.

"Why are you calling us moral policemen? We want them to apply for a licence and run their business according to the law. We cannot allow anybody to function without a licence. So far nobody has come forward with an application.

If they do and meet all the requirements, they can get back to business. We are asking pubs and bars to close at 11.30 pm because the Excise Department has set that deadline," he told HT.