Kolkata’s Metro Assault: A Case of Disrespect and Moral Overture

Just a one-liner for those who have missed the headlines: A young couple was harassed and thrashed while traveling on Kolkata metro, reportedly by some elderly people, for ‘standing too close’ or hugging. The media had a field day and analyzed various aspects of the situation. People on social media were mostly against the attack. A few even went overboard, donning vigilante status, stalking incorrect/unrelated profiles and slandering innocent people. A faction, including a well-known RJ, has, in fact, come out in support of the assailants, giving us a crash-course on ‘private love’ and ‘moral compass’. Here are some of the arguments presented in Kolkata’s metro assault situation, and why we think they are not just pretentious arguments, but dangerous too.

“They were standing too close”

Can someone please explain how close is too close? If two adults were hugging each other lovingly, consensually, you should ideally stop staring and give them some space. And by giving space we do not mean moving away from them and pushing everyone away so that they can make out. Just stop staring and judging. That’s enough space! In fact, if the tepid display of affection – a hug or a kiss – makes you uncomfortable, maybe it is time to question yourself about your own relationship with romance and sex. We swear this country would do well to question itself on its unhealthy relationship with sex.

“Kolkata is the cultural capital. It was okay if it was Goa”

Seriously? This is the funniest argument yet! How does the definition of affection get influenced by geography? Why do our moral meters get calibrated when we travel from Kolkata to Goa? Do you become blind when you land in Goa? Why is it okay to hug someone in Rome and not in Rabindra Sarobar? It is funny that a culture that was historically so open in its acceptance and display of sex should regress so far. Should we hire a bulldozer to demolish the Khajuraho temples too? Does it make your blood boil with a new-found prejudice that they dared depict sex on the walls of a religious building? ‘Cause if they make you uncomfortable, maybe we should indulge in a demolition mob next. <Holding up the sarcasm card, in case of confusion>.

“We must respect the elderly and they must have been provoked somehow”

Of all the arguments put forward, this one is the deadliest. Why should we respect someone just because they were born a few years ahead of us? While you can always respect someone’s judgment, experience, compassion and tolerance, traits commonly found in the elderly, this particular mob was definitely lacking in those qualities. Our unquestioning deference for age is founded on absolutely no rationale. We are not going to respect Hitler because he was born before us. Respect is pretty simple to understand – give it to get it, right? Then what makes us think it is ok for these goons who launch mob assaults to demand respect for the years spent on the planet?

There were many things that went miserably wrong in the incident in Kolkata. We aren’t even going into the escalating problem of vigilantism in the country. Nor the vulgar role that media plays post-facto. Even if we pin those issues for later discussion, the sheer display of hatred and disrespect for personal space is enough to make us worried. Why don’t we park our angst for the real issues surrounding us – for the molestations, rapes, murders and the demolition of democracy? Stop the petty moral judgments, live and let live.

Image credit: ndtv.com

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