Pratibha Naithani, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Sometimes I wonder, if I had studied political science under you at St Xavier’s, I too could have been a political activist like you.
But I couldn’t have been you. Talk of overachievers. Folk singer, mountaineer, and lobbyist for tribal rights, acid attack victims and children who are prone to copying stunts on TV – you seem to be everywhere.
But some extra energy spilled over, didn’t it? Your 2004 PIL ended up censoring all A-rated films on Indian television. You’ve also campaigned against aspects of sex education, actively tried to censor films like Grand Masti, filed a PIL for too much violence in the film Ghajini. Most recently, you’ve urged a Parliamentary Committee to impose a blanket ban on Internet pornography. You are our reigning moral police queen when it comes to pop culture like films, television, the Internet and advertisements.
Thanks to you, vulgarity has been upgraded from a common to proper noun – you’ve lent Vulgarity its capital V. You came to us after Pramod Navalkar who found Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre’s nudity obscene for that shoe advert – but those were dull times, when judges thought ‘different strokes for different folks’ and shockingly let those ‘naked’ shoe salespeople go.
When you came along, it was a big deal for a simple girl from Uttarakhand to rise up and demand that adult films be taken off air. You gave so much strength to those who came later such as Anil Nair, who found Akshay Kumar’s faux-unzipping on the runway obscene.
I wonder how the rest of us could come up with a similar lust for life (please don’t rate this article ‘A’) – the kind of lust that, when channelled in the Bombay High Court, wreaks havoc with the nation’s broadcasting media. So what’s your secret? What lurks in the heart of a moral policewoman?
Freud may say you have sex on the mind. But I don’t know about that. It’s too easy. You deserve better, perhaps. What drives an overachiever?
As we in your audience still mull that question, here you go again, exercising your professional and personal potential to its maximum. You can’t be described as jobless. You are a puzzle – and worth figuring out. I love thee, Ms Naithani, because thou art a gateway to understanding moral policing in this country.
Here, as a token of my appreciation, are a few instances of moral policing from the recent past:
1 A Muslim family suspected of eating beef (a mob lynched and murdered him, and seriously injured his son).
2 Condom ads (not to be shown on daytime television because they are ‘dirty’).
3 A group of young college students who went to a Dargah and a temple (stalked, dragged out of a bus, kidnapped and assaulted).
4 An Australian man in a Bangalore restaurant who had a tattoo of a goddess (threatened by a mob who said they would skin him, and dressed down by police for insulting Hindu culture).
5 Young Nagas for wearing stylish clothing during Durga Puja (threats of harsh action from a Naga political outfit).
6 Two Muslim men who worked in the same store as Hindu women.
7 Utsav Mukherjee, director of the film Bheetu (a screening was cut short by the Bengal Association for ‘not reflecting Bengali culture’).
8 And, of course, Kerala Bhavan in Delhi (raided by the police for possibly serving beef).
That’s just in one month. And just some of all the incidents that have been reported. How does that sound? I am trying to picture you reading the newspapers every day, humming happily, approving one of the above incidents, being shocked by another. Perhaps you sip tea while reading, like the rest of us, and think idly that the homicidal brand of moral policing isn’t linked to your litigious brand.
You are too intelligent, however, to assume that violence only consists of beating the immoral to a bloody pulp. After all, you must find Vulgarity violent too. So I know you’ll graciously let me put a capital V in Violence, of the moral policing kind, even if you don’t see its shadow in a court of law.
I wonder what you think of this month’s moral policing turnout, Ms Naithani. You were one of the early pioneers who fought for the idea of India. I hope it’s worked out the way you wanted it to.
Disclaimer: The views and frustration expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Nidhi Bansal
Photo Credit: Web Cosmo Forums