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India’s “moral police” have political backing

April 18, 2007
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I had decided to avoid writing about the now famous kiss between Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere which created such a storm over here. It was so ridiculous – the reaction I mean! We Indians are making a fool of ourselves, nothing else. The kiss was innocent, and Shilpa was not offended, so why should anyone else protest? In fact I am echoing the sentiments of an overhelming majority of Indians. Either people are not bothered, or they are amused, or they say nothing even if they feel it’s a trifle over the top. And these people who are protesting?
Who are they?
Radical groups which break into movie halls which show films on lesbianism, attack couples from inter caste and inter-religious unions, make a fuss about the celebration of Valentine’s Day, attack people at parties, hold morchas to protest against sex education when more than 50 per cent of Indian children are molested, insist that police should arrest canoodling couples…well, I can go on an on to find such examples. The people who protest against this are breaking the law, they need to be policed themselves…they are not representative of India. They are completely at odds with the tolerant and accepting Hindu culture.
Richard Gere is not a fool. He has been coming to India for years to raise AIDS awareness. He mixes with people from all sections of society. He is a Buddhist and understands Hindu culture. When he kissed Shilpa I am sure he had no idea that it was going to create such a tamasha. He has been meeting the Indian people, not radical groups. That is why he was not aware of how strong they are becoming. Groups backed by political parties. Their main idea is to Talibanize Hindusim to get votes for their party. They are trying to frighten those who want to be free, and they are trying to brainwash those who are simple common folk.

Our society is not a puritan one. People keep mistresses, there is adultery, there is sexual molestation, there is rape, there is wife beating, there is child abuse…these issues need to be addressed. They are the crucial issues. Besides, the main theme of our cinema and television serials has always been love. Love is celebrated, toasted…so its obvious that targeting Richard Gere was to garner publicity. This time, world wide publicity. And doesn’t matter if the image of India suffers. These people have no national feelings anyway. They only care about coming to power. Stripped of the political backing, how many of these “moral guardians” of our society will actually take to the streets to protest against a kiss between two celebrities, a kiss that was casual and meaningless?

Unfortunately these kind of tactics can succeed. Caste and religion based politics has always worked in this country.

Related Reading: Working women banned from nights shifts and more about the Gere and Shilpa kiss.

(Pic sourced from The Guardian)

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2007 7:04 pm

    Agree with you on some of the issues but I dont feel hesitant to say that you are totally wrong when you say that
    1. No moral police is required.
    2. Shilpa knew what she did(actually she never knew what was going to happen to her)
    3. Shilpa didnt protest(actually she had no other option but to act like like an Idiot on the stage with a man kissing her in the most unholy manner and by force making her to cling to him, can you consider Gere to just come and hug Hillary clinton like that. shilpa was an easy prey and thats why he behaved like that)
    4. You say Gere is a budhhist he knows the Hindu traditions, let me tell you it is nothing to do about the Hindu traditions but the social norms prevalent in certain part of the world(India) for all.
    5. Gere did not accept buddhism for any appeal or after serious study of religions, its only a time-pass stunt. No scholars ever change their religion like these sportsmen and actors who earn their livelihood just by arousing passions.
    Although the method of protest is not okay but what is wrong if we try to keep alive our own DHARAM rather than taking cue from the misplaced notions of boad-minded, liberal and modern. Still do you think that Gere asked for her permission before hugging her?
    Do you think that hugging and kissing in this case was aresult of some close affinity?
    We need to tell every one that we should avoid this type of behaviour in full public view (through a mechanism of course)

  2. April 18, 2007 7:15 pm

    “We need to tell every one that we should avoid this type of behaviour in full public view (through a mechanism of course)”

    Telling others to to behave in a certain way only creates resentment. It is difficult enough for heads of families to do it, to try and tell their own family members, but when people start to tell absolute strangers that they should behave in a certain way – it doesn’t work. Thats human nature for you.
    We have to remember that social norms keep changing. For example, in ancient India love and sex was not pushed underground as it is now. We were pushed into this prudent mindset by other cultures. Indian culture has always been all absorbing. Today’s India reminds me of Victorian England.

  3. April 19, 2007 11:32 am

    Nita,

    I agree with Karnail. However, the protests and burning the effigies was totally unnecessary.

    Few points i would like to add:
    1) This was not a Richard Gere’s bedroom where he kissed (ofcourse much more than that) but a social stand where he was preaching a good cause
    2) You can find it obscene by just a glimpse of it, and i guess we all know the difference between a welcome kiss and what happened there
    3) If the same would have done by an Indian biggie(say for eg. SRK) to an American (and here i am not saying only to an actress but any female citizen) in US, a sexual harrassment case worth a million dollar already would have filed by now.
    4) I watched Shipa’s response on T.V. and her reply to the media, she says that we indians believe in “Atithi Devo Bhava” i was wondering is this how we implement it, by not opposing to the obscene gesture only because he is a Well Known white? What would have happened if any other Indian present at the show would have done the same thing…i guess two tight slaps or atleast a confrontation would have followed. If not, then i guess Shilpa is too broad minded!!

  4. April 19, 2007 2:05 pm

    Vicky, if Shilpa thought it was not obscene, it was not obscene. Remember, only if a woman or a man objects, does an act become objectionable. If a man and woman are flirting only they themselves can object, no one else.
    About it being in public…they were just kissing. Not even lip to lip! I do not think kissing is wrong, even in a public place. It was not a deep passionate kiss anyway because then it might become something to be kept private.
    And to suggest that he do this in his bedroom? I don’t think he and Shilpa are close enough. We have to understand that Gere’s western upbringing tells him that this was at the worst, flirting. Even if Gere was flirting, it was just flirting and Shilpa understood it. Let us not stand in judgement. If Shilpa is “broadminded” and you don’t approve, well, I think its her parents who can tell her that, or maybe her boyfriend if she has one. Its none of our business because as I mentioned it was just a light kiss. Not at all obscene. Rather funny I thought.

  5. April 19, 2007 8:57 pm

    Nita,

    Agreed, it is just my individual perception that it was an obscene gesture, I just wanted to express my views. However, Shilpa did mention “Ye thoda zyaada ho gaya tha” after this event and from which i am jumping into conclusion (this may be totally wrong) that she had very little to defend.

    Other point is, this was done in front of the Truck drivers and dont know what they would have percieved . At one end we public condemn the eve teasing and bollywood for showing such scenes but in reality we support the same in front of those (Truck Drivers/ Illiterate individuals)who actually may get a wrong cue out of it.

    I still have a strong opinion that Shilpa did not oppose beacuse Richard as we know is a Hollywood bigshot, had it been sombody else lower in status, we would have seen the real set of events.

    Lastly, of course this is none of my concern as her parents and Shilpa herself has no issues. I would love to be my country as liberal as sweden in sexual/amorous matters, but are we ready for that yet?? haven’t we had enough of rapes/eve teasing ??

  6. April 19, 2007 9:24 pm

    Vicky, I am glad you expressed your views. I love a good argument. :)
    And by the way, if our country was like Sweden we would not have as much eve-teasing as we do. Its known that the cause of so much eve teasing in India is sexual repression.
    Also, Gere kissed Shilpa because of their equal status. If a truck driver had done it she would have slapped him. Rightly so. :)

  7. April 22, 2007 3:57 pm

    I agree with you Nita, Shilpa wouldn’t have tolerated a truck driver kissing her. But then she has a right to select who she wants to kiss.

    Thanks Prerna. – Nita.

  8. Scott permalink
    April 23, 2007 10:47 am

    For a society who has been deeply damaged by colonialism can one think of a more offensive image of a white guy grabbing a daughter of India and forcing himself upon her? It is so symbolic. It is right in line with the image of the white colonist forcing himself upon a country and just taking whatever he wants.

    Richard Gere should pay the ultimate price for this.

    What bothers me however is those who would blame Shilpa Shetty for this.

    Too often women victims of rape in India are blamed for what happened like they wanted the rape to happen or it was their fault the rape happened even when the truth might be that the rapists brutalized them and they couldn’t stop the rape from happening.

    While of course Richard Gere didn’t actually rape Shilpa Shetty, I still see this whole “Blame the Woman Victim” dynamic in place. From what I saw from the video Shilpa Shetty did nothing to cause Richard Gere to act the way he did, and was in fact as shocked as everyone else was that he would act in such a disgraceful manner.

    We need to defend this daughter of India, not blame her for this white man’s assault upon her.

  9. June 30, 2008 5:25 pm

    I don’t think that Indian police are so morale people. In Andhra Pradesh, they arrest village recording dancers who dance nakedly in villages but they won’t arrest cinema stars who indulge in body exposing. There are also cases of politicians and police officers arranging/attending cabaray dances.

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