Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has kicked up a row for defending moral policing and stating that such cases occur “when moral values in society diminish”, with the hashtags #CMSupportsMoralPolicing and #ResignKarnatakaCM trending on Twitter since Wednesday.
Commenting on the rise in incidents of moral policing in the coastal districts of Karnataka where young couples from different faiths are being targeted or confronted for socializing or travelling together, the chief minister on Wednesday had said that moral values were needed in society and it was “improper for young people to act in a way that affects social values”.
“When social beliefs are affected, such incidents happen. People have to behave appropriately to avoid such incidents,” he had said.
His statement drew immediate flak from politicians as well as the civil society who called it “regressive” and “dangerous”.
In a string of tweets, Congress leader Siddaramaiah demanded Bommai’s resignation, while commenting that his statement has proven that he is incapable to maintain law and order in the state.
“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, #MoralPolicing,” Siddaramaiah tweeted.
In another tweet, he asked Bommai if his loyalty was towards the Manu Smriti instead of the Constitution.
Is your loyalty towards our Constitution or towards Manu Smriti?#MoralPolicing
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) October 13, 2021
Replying to a tweet where Siddaramaiah accused Bommai of planning to establish ‘Jungle Raj’ in the state, the chief minister it was the Congress government which incited communal violence in the state.
“Jungle Raj was when you were blind, deaf and dumb to the killings of Hindus under your tenure, in my administration, it’s the law which takes the action while in yours it was jungle raj hence Hindus were killed on supari and many riots took place,” Bommai tweeted.
Jungle Raj was when you were blind , deaf and dumb to the killings of Hindus under your tenure, in my administration, it’s the law which takes the action while in yours it was jungle raj hence Hindus were killed on supari and many riots took place.
— Basavaraj S Bommai (@BSBommai) October 13, 2021
However, a long line of criticism awaited the chief minister.
Around 30 activists and organisations in a joint statement said that such a remark from a chief minister conveys a “dangerous message” that it is fine to use violence to “restore” “moral values”.
“Instead, shockingly, you have spoken in a manner which may encourage more such acts… 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 majority community with hate,” the statement read.
Criticising the chief minister for justifying an evil practice, Congress spokesperson Lavanya Ballal, advised citizens not to bank on the government for security.
“When the CM of the state supports moral policing what more can be expected from the minions? Citizens of Karnataka please stay safe, don’t expect the government to keep you safe,” she tweeted.
“Your encouragement to criminal actions is dangerous for Karnataka. As the CM you should lead the state to light, not darkness,” tweeted activist Vijay Sreenivasa.
JD(S) IT wing head Prathap Kanagal said the remarks by the chief minister would not only justify moral policing, but would also normalise crimes like mob attacks in the name of moral policing, in Karnataka.
Other Twitter users accused the government of radicalizing the majority against minorities through such remarks while others expressed fears of Karnataka turning into another Uttar Pradesh.
“Action & Reaction must”: @CMofKarnataka on moral policing happening in the state. This is how the @BJP4Karnataka is radicalising the majorities against the minorities.
Let’s not let BJP to turn Karnataka into UP 2.O #CMSupportsMoralPolicing #ResignKarnatakaCM pic.twitter.com/rGeGKFQObw
— Razik Basrur | رازق بسرور (@razik_basrur) October 13, 2021
Other users asked what was the use of law enforcement agencies when vigilantes could do the job.
— ಇರ್ಪಾನ್ ಕಲ್ಲಡ್ಕ (@irfan07kalladka) October 13, 2021