Bengaluru is teeming with millennials from all over the country, who like to work hard and party harder. The city's nightlife thrives on weekends, except for one thing - policemen. Youngsters complain that policemen are rude and clearly biased against people who stay out late at night and against couples in particular. Life has changed, millennials are very different from what their parents used to be and perhaps the police, as a unit, haven't quite caught up. DCP Chetan Singh, who apologised on Twitter for rude cops, also said safety is top priority and that people need to listen, too. If only there were more beat cops like Chetan Singh, who can accept that times, they are a-changin’!
M.K. Ashoka reports
Bengaluru is teeming with young people, who, away from the usual restrictions of home and family life, want to make the most of their newfound independence. Cabs stand bumper to bumper on weekend nights, as young people spill out of bars and nightclubs, talking and laughing, clutching each other, pausing for one last smoke, perhaps. There’s only one problem. The police.
Many youngsters complain that if they’re seen out past midnight, being treated rudely or unfairly by policemen is more or less inevitable. The more benign explanation is that the policemen are tired too – they work long hours, don’t have the luxury of a tipple on weekends and simply want to get home to their families and their beds. Young people, however, believe the truth is more sinister – they allege that cops see them as ‘sinners’.
Either way, DCP Central Chetan Singh Rathod acknowledged the problem, taking a giant leap forward by apologising for the behaviour of junior police officers. “I apologise for if my cops have acted rudely. But there is no bad intention involved – this is about the safety of citizens. Rudeness is condemnable, definitely, but if people don’t respond to their requests to disperse, a sharp tone does prove effective at times. I apologise for the behaviour of the policemen but I do also request people to follow instructions and go when they are told to go,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Twitter battle
Twitterati responded, of course, demanding whether it is ‘unlawful to walk around outside after 12 am.” One user, ‘Sush’, tweeted, “sir, as per our experience when people are found walking on streets at night after 12 am the police constables harass by being rude and asking questions about why a person is on the street. Is there any law that prohibits people from being outside after 12 am?
DCP Chetan responded to this tweet, saying, “it’s just for your safety sake nothing offensive. I ask my staff to be polite but politeness does not work always,” he says.
Meanwhile, Gagun (@DoThyDuty), said that he agreed with Sush totally. “Although everyone cannot be categorised by one logic most of the people roaming about after 12 are criminal elements (or those who have some emergency or returning from work late). Police cannot identify just by looking, they have to be cautious,” he maintained.
Sush further wrote that “thanks for the query but they are indeed very rude and sometimes physical. Is it a law that after 12 people should not be seen walking? Is there an act of law passed by the Karnataka government empowering the police to do this?” she questioned.
Cops need to be sensitised to millennial culture
Social worker and women’s rights activist Brinda Adige says young people have every right to enjoy their nightlife. “It’s a free country and as long as you don’t disturb others, it’s fine,” she says. “This is a big city and big cities don’t sleep. The concern, however, is pubs and bars in residential areas. Those should be shut down by 10 pm. Nightlife can happen in commercial areas. As for the cops’ approach to young couples seen in the night - that is based on the orders they receive from their higher-ups,” she explains.
Policemen have their own biases and many come from backgrounds where a boy and girl going out at night, or smoking, for instance, are seen as taboo. They come from the same society as many of us, remarks Adige. “The cops are under the impression that they are protecting our culture. We have to train them to see that being rude for this reason amounts to an abuse of power and of their uniform.”
We’re only young once, she grants. India is made up of mostly young people, but at the same time, with such a large population, the demographic of older people is also huge. “People between the ages of 45 and 50 may be a small group in comparison but they’re a significant number. I advise youngsters to be conscious of other people as they enjoy themselves. Youngsters want to chill out – we, the older ones, prefer to stay home and do chores. We respect them and they should learn to respect us.”
Thriving nightlife sign of a booming economy
Nightlife and economic status are closely interlined, says Basavaran Tonagatti, a senior financial expert. There are two ways of seeing the issue, he says. “The first is that the overall economy depends on spending habits. Nightlife and the economy are interlinked – the former shows that people have money in their pockets. People who are willing to spend, whether it is on needs or wants, will always benefit the economy; high demand means greater job creation.”
People should understand ‘conscious’ spending, he adds, “I am not saying that nightlife is bad. However, spending must be done consciously, rather than blindly. If you know what you are doing, then it’s fine.
Cops don’t understand us, say millennials
Maintaining law and order in society is the fundamental duty of the police, says MLA Lakshmi Hebbalkar. “We have been witness to so many rape cases recently; whenever anything goes wrong, we blame the police and question law and order in society,” she says.
“We also blame the government for not taking enough precautions. This is a complicated issue and in my view, nobody is clearly in the wrong. The police are right in trying to do their duty, while youngsters are right in their demand for a good nightlife,” Hebbalkar says. She adds that she too likes to go out with friends when work is stressful, to have a good time and relax. “Life is changing and so is Bengaluru. But the one thing we need to do is not compromise on our safety.”
Jael Varma, a poet, says that unless youngsters are breaking the law, the police have no right to question them. “Our society is still quite a regressive one – cops are biased against couples who go out at night because they are part of society too,” she says. “Also, those in power are very arrogant – that itself is a misuse of power. Officials are public servants but that’s not how they behave.”
“Police don’t have the right to address the public in singulars. Traffic cops do that all the time and the should not. This abuse of power needs to be checked and the public must stand against it,” she says.
Over 60 percent of India’s population is made up of millennials, whose beliefs and attitudes are totally different from those of the previous generations. “Bosses can’t parent their employees, for instance and in the same way, public servants should also be trained in millennial culture and psychology. It will help them understand how to handle today’s youngsters, how to tackle them. The more you abuse them, the more they will revolt.”
Shruthi H M, a software professional, says nightlife is essential for economic prosperity of the city. Young people should take care of themselves and not impinge on other people’s comfort or happiness – and then they can enjoy themselves as they please.