Until now I had mistakenly assumed that Hyderabad was far less conservative than its neighbours in the South and that women traditionally held positions of significance in their public and private lives. I returned to Hyderabad on my usual weekend sojourn only to find news that was a smack in the face of all development. If you haven’t read about it yet, then brace yourself before you attempt to read more. It will make you see vivid shades of red. The gist of it though, is a bunch of legal aged partygoers went to a pub for a farewell party being organized by their juniors. While they were leaving the premises, they were filmed by a TV channel against their wishes and repeated requests.
“The media persons were relentlessly chasing us, and even after getting into the cab, and hiding my face, they harassed me by pursuing with their cameras. They never let us explain what had happened before they arrived,” Sravanthi (name changed), a final year student of law said.
The versions of the story differ, but there was some kind of altercation between the media and the students. The next day, grainy footage of the girls appeared on major news channels, ‘fleeing’ the pub.
“On the morning of 12 April, news channels including TV9, Saakshi TV, Studio N and ABN Andhra Jyoti, aired a news story in which they claimed minor girls had created ruckus in an inebriated condition in Hyderabad.”
The pictures of the girls were blurred to suggest that the girls were topless and drunk. ‘Drunken ladies hulchul in Hyderabad’, ‘Special focus: Girls romance in hostels and rooms’, ‘Drunken women creates hungama.’ Gasp, women in a pub having a good time with a drink.
I bow my head down in shame. I’m a 21 year old girl. Yes I go to my fair share of parties. Does this make me morally loose and does this mean ‘Western culture’ has sucked out my soul? I don’t think so. But of course, regional television channels seem to think otherwise as they scrolled defamatory headlines over voyeuristic footage. I wonder what the main issue is here – drinking, women drinking or women drinking and protesting against unwanted filming. It seems that instead of moving forward we are regressing. The students in question have filed a case in court, a move which I applaud. I find this entire incident repugnant due to its sheer misrepresentation and bigotry against women. If it goes unquestioned, how many more injustices will be dealt out to the women of Hyderabad.
Sadly, it doesn’t stop here. The police seemed to have jumped on the moral bandwagon and have proceeded to cancel Ladies Nights in all the pubs of the city. This is to do what? Protect women (you will get raped if you are drunk)? Protect others from drunken women? But it seems even that wouldn’t suffice to curb the dented-painted women of the city, our policemen also set to motion the following rule.
“In an effort to discourage pub owners from attracting too many youngsters with offers like free drinks for women, Andhra Pradesh, one of the largest consumers of beer and cheap liquor in the country, has decided to ban the entry of women into clubs, pubs and bars after 10 pm.”
OH! So by 10 pm, we must go back to our kitchens and hang up our labels of being modern, free women along with all dignity and self-respect. And of course, wait for our men to come back from the pubs by 11 pm so we can welcome their arrival with a modest smile and eternal servitude. I see where this is going, and it isn’t a very good place.
Note: After I wrote the blog and the story was published, the Hyderabad CP and top excise officials told Firstpost that no such ban has been put in place yet. Emphasis on yet.
Sign the petition here (http://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/victimization-harassment-and-defamation-by-local-news-media) and raise a hue and cry. This moral policing needs to stop.