Unsafe cops?Views — By Aditya Kuber on October 19, 2012 at 3:02 PM
What is Pune? It definitely isn’t a Pensioner’s Paradise anymore. It’s often referred to as the “Oxford of the East” signifying its importance in the education sector. It’s an IT and manufacturing hub. It is one of India’s 10 biggest cities. And has been for over a decade. Students, workers, families and aspirants relocate to Pune thanks to the many positive aspects it offers. About 10 years ago, Pune had a rollicking music scene. Not just Indian, but western as well. While the Sawai Gandharva happens every year, back then, Pune regularly had a host of rock concerts as well.
Unfortunately, moral policing changed all that.
Gone are the days when one could find a live performance at the Jazz Garden or perhaps a concert every few months. Pune’s rock and western music fans have to make to with Karaoke and bootleg versions of their favourite acts. So while Pink Floyd, Metallica and other big names visit India, they prefer playing at Bangalore and Delhi and even Mumbai, occasionally. And Pune’s falling image received a further blow two days ago when the Police beat up organisers at the Enrique Iglesias show.
The full account of the incident has been reported widely in the media (1, 2, 3, 4 and more) but as a Punekar, I feel ashamed that a city with such a vibrant culture has been reduced to being the fiefdom of the powerful and corrupt few. NDTV footage also shows police attacking the crowd.
What was all the ruckus? An ACP who already had complimentary passes, tried to bring in more guests. On being stopped (and his ego being hurt), he manhandled the organisers. This, after the organisers had already let a few of his guests in. More ruckus followed and a lathi charge also happened.
Sure, most venues around the world would have experienced problems at events and concerts. But few would have been by those who are expected to uphold the law. Unfortunately in Pune, this is a way of life.
All Punekars would at some point have been victim to Police brutality. Whether it was through an illegally towed vehicle or due to insensitive checks under the name of “Law and Order” or simply when getting verified for their passports. Sounds familiar to all Indians? Perhaps.
What hurts most about this is while the Police continue to clamp down on all forms of entertainment — most restaurants and pubs are required to close around midnight; there are few permissions given for concerts and shows unless a politician is promoting it — the high-handed manner in which they do so is unfair to most residents.
For example: The Punekar’s office is on Law College Road in Pune. The SNDT college is a stone’s throw away. Girls studying at this college have their friends (or boyfriends) visit them through the day and these couples or groups are often seen scurrying about looking for a quiet spot so as to avoid the roaming Police’s ire! And if they are caught, they are subjected to a long moral lecture, threatened with being reported to parents and college authorities and even confiscation of identification. Why? Because boys and girls were sitting together on a bike and talking (or worse, laughing!).
Does Pune need this level of moral (unnecessary) policing? Does the entire city get drunk on Saturday night and go ramming everyone about? Can’t we be civilized and be trusted by a present, but unobtrusive Police force to live our lives?
While most of the above problems are perhaps without solution, what happened at the concert further threatens Pune’s reputation as a cultural centre and a place where people can study, work, enjoy and live life happily. Bacardi NH7 Weekender is scheduled for Pune from 2-4 November. It won’t surprise me to know that a bunch of permissions have suddenly been revoked and there is further trouble when the show happens.
It’s sad, but true: Pune is no longer the fun place it once was.
Photo courtesy: EnriqueIglesias.com. For representational purposes only.