On December 28, Parveen Malik was in Tilyar Lake in Rohtak around noon when he saw a team of Haryana Police officials interrogate a 25-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman.
The officials were in the process of noting down the couple’s name, number and address when Parveen, an advocate at the District Court in Sonepat, intervened.
Parveen’s first instinct was to record a video of the incident on his phone as he confronted the cops on why they were interrogating the couple. The officials naturally did not have a reasonable explanation to give.
The video was viewed some 13 million times and was shared widely on social media platforms after Parveen posted it on his Facebook profile.
This was not an isolated incident. Moral policing by cops in India, who try to enforce a ‘code of morality’ on consenting adults, has been going on for years. In a space-starved country like India, parks have been the only recourse for couples wanting some private time, but end up becoming easy targets for cops who invade their privacy without any official order to do so.
In the Rohtak incident, Parveen came as the voice of reason. His brave act of challenging the actions of the police officials resonated among thousands of online users. While speaking to The Better India, Parveen explained what made him stand up to the cops that day.
“The police officials’ actions were absolutely unjustified. As an aware and law-abiding citizen of my country, I have the right to question them if I see something amiss about what they’re doing. They did not have any official order to interrogate the couple, neither did they have any reasonable justification as to what made them do it. The lady cop later told me that they saw the girl crying, so they approached them, which was a lie. She wasn’t crying. She was at the park by her own choice, accompanied by the person of her choosing. She had every right to be there,” he told TBI.
Parveen also found out from regulars in the park that this was a routine occurrence.
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Moral policing by the police has created fear in many couples looking to spend some quiet time in the park.
The advocate’s intention was only to spread awareness among the youth and to teach the cops that it was the right of two consenting adults of the opposite sex to hang out in the park without any interference. Yet, the cops rudely dismissed him.
“My intention is not to defame the cops but to make the public aware of their rights. They can’t live in fear of something that isn’t even wrong. It is important that the cops are aware of the citizens’ rights too. They have to understand what they’re doing is harassment and not some call of duty. They need to learn how to speak to them as well or else it sends a wrong message.” Parveen said.
Parveen’s video raises another important issue. Upon his intervention, the lady cop asked the girl for her mother’s number. Young couples may or may not always tell their parents about where they’re going and who they’re hanging out with.
In any case, they are adults. The cops cannot get away with this unnecessary invasion of privacy by assuming or speculating that the woman could fall victim to the actions of the man. She could have, but the point is that they had no reason to suspect it when clearly the woman showed no signs of distress and consented to be present there.
Informing her parents would further worsen things for her and she could be subjected to unnecessary monitoring by them in case they are not okay with her hanging out with men.
“The government boasts about their ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign and while it’s absolutely necessary that girls get equal opportunities, they must also be given autonomy over their decisions to go where they want and do what they want. Even if something were to happen to the woman, the blame would eventually be on her and not the man. Which is why it is absolutely important to challenge such a mindset,” said Parveen.
He hopes that his message reaches the youth and makes them aware of their rights so that they don’t end up falling victims to moral policing by anyone.