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New Delhi: Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai has stoked a controversy with his statements that appeared to justify incidents of moral policing in the state.
According to the Indian Express, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister seemed to perceive nothing wrong with right-wing vigilantes impinging on the privacy of people to prevent inter-community relationships.
“This is a sensitive issue. We all have responsibilities in a society. There are multiple sentiments in a society and people will need to function in a manner that does not hurt sentiments. When sentiments are hurt, there will normally be action and reaction,” Bommai said.
“Today, we cannot live without morality. Peace in society and relationships are dependent on morality. When there is no morality there will be action and reaction. There is a responsibility on everyone and not just one section of society,” the Karnataka chief minister said.
His comments drew criticism from the former chief minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah and progressive groups in the state.
“Is your loyalty towards our Constitution or towards Manu Smriti?” Siddaramaiah asked in a series of social media posts addressed to the Karnataka chief minister.
“Mr. @BSBommai, you have accepted your incapability to maintain law & order by justifying moral policing by a few anti-social elements. Please resign & save Karnataka!!” Siddaramaiah said on Twitter.
You have accepted your incapability to maintain law & order by justifying moral policing by few anti-social elements.
Please resign & save Karnataka!!#MoralPolicing
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) October 13, 2021
“Innocent women are being targeted in the name of moral policing. The government is trying to protect anti-social elements instead of putting them behind bars. Appeasing RSS may be necessary to save your position, but you should not stoop this low.”
“Mr @BSBommai, do you have any plans to dissolve the police department, and handover the law & order to RSS? Or are you planning to establish Jungle Raj?” he asked on Twitter.
A group of 56 advocates, retired judges, including former Karnataka high court judge H. Nagamohan Das, and social organisations issued a statement condemning the chief minister’s remarks, the Indian Express reported. “Your statement that social morality is to be protected is not an innocent message. It sends out a dangerous message that as far as you are concerned, it is okay to use violence to enforce what some people see as morality,” the statement read.
“The people of the state expected you to condemn these violent acts of moral policing”, but “shockingly, you have instead spoken in a manner which may encourage more such acts. This is hypocrisy of the highest order.”
“These acts of violence affect the dignity of the youth and instil fear in them. It condemns minorities and Dalits to lead the life of second-class citizens. It also conveys the message that women have no right in choosing their partners. It is an attack on all women, in fact. It also fills the minds of many youth among the majority community with hate,” the statement said.