Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, on Wednesday, 13 October, while talking about the increasing incidents of moral policing in the state, termed the act as 'actions and reactions' to 'hurt sentiments' of the society, which 'needed morality'.
"Can we live without morality in society?" the CM said while responding to a question by the media, reported Deccan Herald.
"It is important that the sentiments of people are not violated. Thus the onus on protecting social harmony is on everybody," he added.
His comments, however, generated quite a storm, with reactions coming in from 35 eminent lawyers, social activists, writers, authors, among others, in the state, who issued a joint statement condemning the chief minister's remarks.
Stating that his statement came when cases of 'communal' policing were increasing in the state, they said the message being sent by him was not an innocent one.
They pointed out that two people in the state had been killed for "loving across caste and religion " and that youth belonging to different religions were being dragged to police stations and assaulted for intermingling with each other.
"Your statement that social morality is to be protected is not an innocent message. On the contrary, it sends out a dangerous message that, as far as you are concerned, it is ok to use violence to enforce what some people see as 'morality'. The people of the state expected you to condemn these violent acts of 'moral policing' and take action as you did with the BTM layout case in Bangalore. Instead, shockingly you have spoken in a manner that may encourage more such acts. This is hypocrisy of the highest order."
The statement said that his comments conveyed the message that women had no right to choose their partners, filled the minds of people belonging to the majority community with hate, and reduced minorities and Dalits to second-class citizens.
They said that such acts of moral policing were an attack on "democracy and fraternity".
The statement further said that it was the responsibility of the chief minister "to protect constitutional morality," which was the "fundamental postulate of human liberty, equality, fraternity and dignity".
The group said they wouldn't allow the land of philosopher, poet, social reformer and Lingayat saint Basavanna to become a field of hate.
(With inputs from Deccan Herald)