What is moral policing and why Karnataka's new Chief Minister Siddaramaiah plans to ban it in the state?

Days after swearing-in as the 24th Chief Minister of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah has kickstarted a hectic task of revamping the governance and scrapping the policies that were either implemented by the ousted BJP regime or backed by the Hindutva outfits. While Siddaramaiah has ordered to deliver the five major guarantees promised by the Congress party, he is also planning to upend the controversial acts passed by the BJP government in the state. 

In what has become a prelude to curb the BJP-era culture in the state, Siddaramaiah has now announced that he will put an end to moral policing, that was once rampant in Karnataka under BJP's rule as it was carried out mostly by the fervent cadres and supporters of Hindutva outfits including Bajrang Dal. Under the guise of saving the Hindu religion and culture, the moral policing vigilante groups have committed atrocities that were infinite and Karnataka, particularly the western part of the state, was deeply vulnerable for such policing. 

What is moral policing? 

Though police involve in moral policing, it would be the involvement of several vigilante groups that sparks a perilous law and order in a state. Such groups act as a saviour of Hindu culture and religion and would target the people of minorities and other religions. These groups are known to attack bars and pubs to oppose the western culture and they would also torture intercaste and inter-religion affairs. The coastal region of Karnataka had witnessed such incidents carried out by the supporters of Hindutva outfits.

There are several occurrences that exhibit the growing moral policing and bigotry. On August 30, 2022, 19-year-old Mohammed Sanif, who was a B.Com student, was threatened and beaten up by his college mates by alleging that he befriended a Hindu girl. Likewise, on July 25, 2022, a group of cadres belong to Bajrang Dal had stormed into a pub in Mangaluru, Karnataka, in the name of moral policing and objected to women who were attending a party. 

Similarly, in March 2022, under the name of moral policing, a group of Hindutva activists had assaulted a Muslim man for travelling with a girl of different faith in Mangaluru. In another incident, the right-wing cadres had literally abused a Hindu woman for travelling with a Muslim couple. In an awful event, members of a Hindutva outfits had in January 2021 marred a birthday party celebration in Mangaluru, stating that no celebration should be done with Muslim youth. 

The incidents of moral policing by the right-wing groups were on rise and as the BJP was in power, the accused had either received impunity or a little scale of action. The Hindutva outfits have claimed that they were carrying out moral policing to protect the nation's culture and dignity, and the culture of Hindu religion. The Hindutva supporters had also defended their attacks and atrocities during moral policing, while such grim incidents had aghasted the general public in Karnataka. 

As the BJP rule was ousted from Karnataka with the Congress party recording a landslide victory, it was expected that the Congress government would veto the controversial amendments made by the BJP and would invoke a ban on the Hindutva-banned moral policing. Karnataka's new Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has now issued orders to the top police officials to curb moral policing. 

Siddaramaiah's turn to take down moral policing

Recently, after taking office, Siddaramaiah has convened his first meeting with the top police officials during which he vowed to curb moral policing in the state. He asked the police officials to ensure that there is no discrimination between religions and that the law and order has to be maintained strictly. Siddaramaiah had also warned officials that they would be held responsible if the law and order situation gets worsened in the state. 

The Chief Minister has also ordered the top police officials to take strict action against those who disturb harmony through social media posts. Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, who was a part of the meeting, had pointed out few incidents under the previous BJP rule and said that the Congress government will not allow saffronisation of the police department. 

While addressing the reporters after the meeting, Siddaramaiah said, "We have asked the police to be people friendly, they should be courteous towards people who come to file complaints. Not only the police inspector, DCPs will also be held responsible for crimes and illegal acts like - rowdyism, clubs, drug menace, - in any of their police station limits, and action will be taken against them. No more policing here on, we will put an end to this." 

As the moral policing has become an troubling element in Karnataka, the Siddaramaiah government is keen on curbing it and he has also directed the police officials to initiate merciless action to control illegal activities within the police station limits. He also had directed the 'Hoysala' patrol teams to always be vigilant to check and prevent the drug-related crimes.