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Moral policing, the Maoists’ way

world Updated: Sep 21, 2008 00:08 IST
Anirban Roy

Within days of taking over, the new socialist government in Nepal is all set to stamp out ‘evils’ from the society. And, Kathmandu’s dance bars have become the first target of the campaign.

After Mumbai’s ban on bar dancers, the capital city of Nepal, during the last couple of years, had become South Asia’s new entertainment hub.

Taking advantage of Nepal’s political instability, a set of new-generation entrepreneurs had added sleaze to their bars to make quick money. During the last one-year, the city of Kathmandu saw the mushrooming of over 2,000 dance bars.

Deputy Prime Minister Bamdev Gautam has declared a ‘war’ against these enterprises and is determined to close down bars and restaurants, which are promoting obscenity. Interestingly, a large section of the clients in the bars are tourists from India.

During the past week, police have raided hundreds of dance bars and have even arrested some of the owners.

In fact, the government’s campaign has stirred a hornet’s nest with employees of the bars resorting to agitation. Thousands of girls working in the dance bars recently staged a demonstration in Kathmandu demanding a halt to the moral policing. They insisted the Home Ministry withdraw the declaration and stop arbitrary raids in dance bars.

However, for others, the rise in the number of dance bars in Nepal is viewed as a social evil in the Himalayan Nation, which, for centuries, was a highly conservative Hindu Kingdom.

“It is a good thing the government is doing,” Sunil Sharma, a school teacher said, adding that the bar owners have been largely encouraging nude dances by young girls to attract clients till the wee hours. Lauding the new government for its stringent action, Sharma said the dance bars were spoiling Nepal’s image. “After all, Nepal is the birth place of Lord Buddha and Sita,” he said.

The government has also strictly directed the bars across Kathmandu to close at 10.30 pm. “It (the government) is trying to ruin the tourism industry in Nepal,” Umesh Shrestha, a dance-bar owner said. “Will the government provide alternative source of employment to the 40,000 people, who are working for the dance bars in Kathmandu,” Shrestha questioned.

Unfortunately, most of the girls in the dance bars are unskilled and have come to Kathmandu from the rural areas of Nepal. Many of them come from families with low-income levels and have few alternative sources of livelihood.