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Moral Policing in Bengaluru: Students Claim Harassment by Cops

Students of Christ University allege manhandling, forced challans and harassment at the hands of Bengaluru city cops

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My Report
7 min read
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After a spate of incidents that have allegedly intensified over the last two months, several students of Christ University in Bengaluru’s Hosur Road have taken to social media to share their experiences of being ‘morally policed’ by local cops. Students narrated a number of incidents online, from a student being shamed for her clothes, to being harassed for speaking to friends of the opposite sex.

The most recent incident on Holi this year has thrown the alleged harassment into focus. Cops are said to have beaten students with lathis and slapped them, all for allegedly celebrating with colours in public. The Quint spoke to several students about their experiences, that have been detailed below.

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1. Police Slapped Students, Beat Them With Lathis on Holi

Students of Christ University allege manhandling, forced challans and harassment at the hands of Bengaluru city cops
A student was allegedly hit for playing Holi in public.
(Illustration: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

Eyewitness

So, it was Holi. Everyone was outside enjoying the festival, right outside college hostel. Suddenly, I saw people screaming “Police aagayi andar jao” (Police is here, go inside) and at that point of time I was already inside. Seconds later a lady officer entered our hostel. She started screaming about how it was “election time” and we were not supposed to play Holi.

I saw a glimpse of her pulling a girl and pushing her to a side. I was still near the couch. Scared. Because she seemed to hurt anyone who came her way. She saw two girls sitting on the couch. These were the very same girls whom she had hit with lathi earlier. She went to them and started screaming “Tu pagal hai kya, mera uniform tu dhoyegi kya,” (Are you mad, will you wash my uniform) and then she started slapping and hitting one of the girls.
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2. Picked off the Road, Dragged to the Station & Made to sit on the Floor

Students of Christ University allege manhandling, forced challans and harassment at the hands of Bengaluru city cops
Amogh was forced to sit on the police station floor.
(Illustration: The Quint/Arnica Kala)

Amogh Rayanker, first-year student of Christ University writes:

This incident took place on 14 February. A female friend and I were standing there, waiting for the bus. In less than a minute this officer arrives in a car and asks us what we were doing there.

Officer: Why are you standing here?

Me: We're waiting for a bus ma'am.

Officer: The bus stop is ahead, not here.

Me: Yes ma'am, but there is traffic and we would get on from here.

Officer: Oh! So you guys have made a master plan and everything.

Me: Nothing of that sort ma'am.

Officer: What if someone comes from behind and (uses her hand in a back and forth motion to show an offensive gesture)?

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After she used the gesture, I pulled out my phone and put it on voice record. The previous conversation had happened in Kannada but I spoke this sentence out in English.

She got out of the car, snatched my phone out of my hand and attempted to drive off. I stood between the door and didn’t let it close. In a few minutes, we were surrounded by those passing by. She threatened to file a case on me under some section and started calling other nearby units. Half an hour later after haggling, she wasn’t ready to let go. I offered to delete the recording if she were to let me go, in vain.

She told me, if I wanted my phone I'd have to go the station and write her an apology. I asked her to just let my father know about all this. I was told that if I sat in the car I'd be allowed to make a call. I sat in the car and they started driving to the station. We stopped at a petrol station. The lady officer went on to tell everyone listening that people like me are an obstruction to her duty.

She went on to give me examples of what bad words in Kannada were. She told me she never used any of those and went on to say that in North Karnataka I would have had my bones broken.

When we reached the station, I was surrounded by a few policemen. Their objective was to intimidate me. When I tried explaining what happened, I was told to shut my mouth and listen to what they said. I asked them if I could call my dad and was denied.

Later, I was taken to a room and told to remove my bag, belt and keep away all my belongings.

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I was threatened that I would be seated naked on the road. I had to take my shoes and socks off and was made to sit on the floor for the next 15 minutes. They told me I didn’t have a pound of flesh on me and was trying to show off in front of females to garner attention.
They told me they’d slap a petty case on me. I requested them not to. I was told to give my ID card and was taken mugshots of. After all this, I was made to sit down for another half-an-hour without any direction. They later told me not to repeat this again and let me go.

I believe in a just a system of law where everyone knows they can live freely. If this very system has given the right to some of our countrymen and women to impose their narrow frame of mind, then it's time we widen their frame. This is not the only incident where I have witnessed verbal abuse by an officer. Despite being a literate youngster, it was easy for these officers to take me for a ride. I wonder how they'd use this very power on those who aren't as aware as I am. I hope this will be rectified and will be the cause of a systemic change.

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We should be able to do what we want. Let’s say, I’m walking down a road, I should not have to worry about anything. At the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that I rely on the system, but if the system itself fails, where are the students to go? 

3. Slapped With a Fake Challan for Talking to a Girl

Students of Christ University allege manhandling, forced challans and harassment at the hands of Bengaluru city cops
Armaan says he was told that talking to his female friend in public amounted to ‘public indecency’.
(Illustration: The Quint/Arnica Kala)

Armaan Mishra, first-year student of Christ University narrated the following incident:

This incident took place last year, outside college. We were sitting by the side of the road and because we were just friends and not dating at that time, we had a one-foot gap between us when we were sitting. Two cops came on their scooter – a man and a woman. The male cop first spoke something in Kannada and we didn’t understand that, after which the lady asked us where we are from.

So, my friend stood up and said she is from Chhattisgarh and the lady asked where is Chhattisgarh. They had a conversation among themselves, and the lady understood that it’s not close to Karnataka. She then asked me where I was from, after which, I asked her what the problem was.

The cop said that we were indulging in public nuisance, which I did not understand. So I asked her what we were doing and she said that we are not allowed to sit together because that is indecent and we should not do that in public. 

She even went on to ask us if our states allowed us to do the same, and if Chhattisgarh allows couples to sit together and commented on how our parents haven’t taught us anything.

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I didn’t want to argue with them and I just said okay, so what do I need to do now? She said that I have to pay Rs 200 fine. I readily agreed and said yes, to the fine. I was ready to give the challan when I saw that public indecency was not written on the challan but smoking and tobacco consumption, which neither of us do.

We were both infuriated. I said that I wouldn’t sign it because I was neither smoking nor chewing tobacco, and that they couldn’t just make me sign something that I was not doing. So she asked me to go to the police station. Back then I knew that they cant take a woman to the station after 8 pm. So, I told them that we would not be coming along, they even said that I should go to the station while my friend waited with the lady cop. I refused and said the matter should be sorted out at the spot.

So, she increased the fine by Rs 100 and asked us to sign and give Rs 300. I know it was wrong on our part to pay, but I wanted to get out of the situation. I was ready to pay the amount. By this time, a crowd of 20 people had gathered in the area and it became embarrassing.

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This is not the first time such incidents have happened. Cops have told us, “Nobody can stand in groups after 10 pm,” when we were having tea right next to the college.

In my experience, the moment they know you are from north India, they’ll talk in Kannada even though they know you won’t understand. They assume we spoil the discipline of the place. 

As told to Arpita Raj

The Quint contacted DCP South-east Isha Pant and she said that she was aware of the Holi incident.

“On Holi day, a few residents had complained about people creating nuisance by playing Holi. Playing is fine, but it should not become a problem for residents or passers-by. The lady cop was on Hoysala duty and went to the spot. She may have spoken strongly to the students but according to my initial inquiry, nobody was hit. I have spoken to residents as well. I have only heard one side of the story, need to hear both before taking action,” she said.

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. ThoughThe Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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