Does ACP Dhoble Deserve Nothing But Condemnation?

September 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm (Essay)

Recently, I found myself watching a TV program in which a panel discussed the raids conducted by the now famous 56 year old Assistant Commissioner of Police Vasant Dhoble against prostitution and drug abuse in Mumbai restaurants and dance bars. The panelists came down heavily against ACP Dhoble for the harassment meted by him on many innocent persons. Their argument stems from the fact that ACP Dhoble’s drive was overdone and impinged upon the freedom of individuals. The resentment against the ACP’s extra-legal methods is certainly justifiable. He carried a hockey stick, beat up innocent patrons during the raids, filed prostitution charges against women on no real evidence (his arrest of some female German tourists in this regard was highly suspect; they were weeping on TV in shock), paraded patrons before TV cameras and so on.

However, to me, there is another side to this story. In India, sex-workers have been a part of society from  ancient times as it is the case with all other cultures of the world. In ancient India, they were segregated from the mainstream of our social life. The so called ‘red light’ zones were generally located on the fringes of cities or outside the perimeter of villages. While, sex-workers were not considered members of the respectable society, it was widely recognized that they provided an essential service to society by absorbing the emotional effluents of lovelorn desolations and sexual awakenings.  They helped to keep a check on the healthy societal order by serving as a safety valve of untamed passions and at times healing emotional scars. The requirement of soil from prostitute quarters for conducting certain kinds of pujas is a reflection of the depth of understanding of this difficult role played by the sex-workers in society.

Many women from sex-worker families kept alive the family traditions of dance and music without taking up their family profession. Some of them reached the highest level proficiency in these art forms. The name of Amrapali from Buddhist lore comes readily to mind.

It all changed with the colonial domination of India. Imbibing the colonizers’ mixed-up notions on morality and free sex we have developed a confused and debased approach to sex. Existence of the peculiar culture of dance bars in cities like Mumbai bears testimony to this commodification of human flesh. Indulgence to this westernized culture of instant sensual gratification is tearing apart the fabric of our social and family life.

According to me, while ACP Dhoble’s methods are reprehensible, his intention to strike out the excesses of this permissive culture of the flesh is commendable.

– Parthapratim Ray

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