Srinagar: On Saturday afternoon, I and my friend Irfan Mehraj were strolling on the Bund. We went to a stall near Jhelum View Park to have tea. While discussing story assignments for the day, we saw people rushing toward the middle of the park.
We too rushed toward the place and saw two men slapping a 14-year-old boy for “immoral behaviour”. In the commotion, we could hear people saying that the boy had behaved rudely with a few elderly men who had objected to his chatting with a girl, his classmate.
Soon, a group of policemen appeared on the scene and started abusing, gratuitously, every youngster sitting in the park.
In one corner of the park, a girl and a boy, about 12 to 13 years of age, were engrossed in reading a book. The policemen grabbed the girl by her arm while she struggled to pull herself free.
“You slut, what the f**&^ are you doing here,” shouted one of the policemen. The girl cringed in fear and broke down. The boy who was sitting beside her was slapped so hard by a policeman that he fell on the ground.
A few men among the crowd that had gathered around the girl and the boy laughed while talking about their “obscene behaviour”.
The next target of the police was two girls in their early twenties, who were sitting on a bench, reading a newspaper. A police man with a lathi in his hand, chased them, mouthing obscenities at the top of his voice.
The girls dropped the newspaper and ran. The police chased them out of the park. The policemen next turned to a couple sitting beneath a Chinar. The man, it turned out, was mute and tried to explain away his innocence by way of gestures but in vain. The police caught hold of them and bundled them out of the park.
Within 10 minutes, the police detained about a dozen boys and girls for “displaying immorality in public”.
As they were being taken away, probably to the nearby police station, I asked the assistant sub-inspector Mohammad Akram, who was leading the policemen, “Why are you detaining them? What is their crime?”
He shouted, “I can do anything, who the hell are you. I am the law enforcer. These are the children of sluts.”
I told him that I am a reporter. “You may be a reporter, but I have to do my job. Do you want me to lose my job.” he said.
When I asked him under what law will you detain people for sitting in a public park, he grabbed me by the collar and shouted, “Motherfu*&^, I am a policeman and I can do anything. Don’t meddle with us or you won’t be able to see the light of the day ever.
It is our moral duty to arrest immoral people.”
My friend intervened and was smacked on the back of his head.
The policemen crowded around us as if they had arrested heinous criminals. The lathis were waved all around. They snatched our Press cards and mobile phones. I glanced back and found the detained boys and girls in tears.
Fortunately, once the police caught us, they seemed to have forgotten about the boys and girls and let them go.
“Let go of my collar,” I said to the ASI. Instead, he punched me on my mouth and bloodied the upper lip. Irfan and I were bundled into a gypsy and we were taken to Kothibagh police station.
“These are the bastards who support immoral behavior,” said Mohammad Akram to the station house officer.
The SHO glared at us. As we began to explain the situation, the ASI shouted, “Don’t act smart or I will implicate you both in such case that you will rot in jail all your lives.”
The SHO put his hand on our shoulders and offered his enlightened thoughts.
“There is no such law to arrest people for sitting in public parks but this park has become a brothel,” the SHO said.
We told him that we haven’t encountered any obscenity in the park. He smiled and asked the ASI to release us.
We were released and the SHO asked us to wait in the courtyard for a “small talk”.
“Look, we know that there is no immorality in the park. But we are the police and people should not feel that we don’t exist,” he said.