March 31, 2005

Dance Bars in Maharashtra.

Government of Maharashtra decided to shut down all the dance bars in the state except in Mumbai. The reason given is that they "ruptured the cultural fabric of the State and the Government had lacked the wherewithal to enforce rules that governed them."

This is a highly disturbing act for numerous reasons. Firstly, the government appointing itself as a guardian of the cultural fabric is a dangerous trend. No one can presume to be the cultural beacon in a society and force their vision on others. Every person has his own views. Personally, I do not think much of dance bars and in my view, they are recreation only for people of a very superficial personality. But that is no reason for me to force others not to go to dance bars. Essence of a civilized society is the preservation of individual freedom. The state has absolutely no business telling people how to conduct their lives as far as there is no threat to individual freedom. So if people want to go to dance bars and indulge in whatever activities that are prevalent there, government has no right to stop them - as long as these activities do not lead to criminality.

Here comes the second disturbing aspect. The foremost responsibility of a Government is to make sure that the various systems in the society do not degenerate into disorder and criminality. Every other function of the government must necessarily be of secondary importance. Things have come to a pretty pass when the Government says that we lack the wherewithal to enforce some governing rules, so we will just close the whole thing down and not bother. This is the most depraved thing a government can say. They might as well say tomorrow that we do not have the wherewithal to stop the corruption in government offices, so we will close down all of them, or we do not have the wherewithal to deal with aftermath of earthquakes, train accidents, so we ban constructing high rise buildings, or traveling in trains, or we do not have the wherewithal to deal with the corruption among politicians, so we will just pass a law that legalizes anything that politicians do.

There is a significant difference between ideological/cultural issues and issues immediately threatening the individual rights of citizens. There might possibly exist (though I doubt it) a logical proof that a certain ideological or cultural trend will lead to criminality in future, but a state should not concern itself with ending all ideological roots of disorder. That simply is not the purpose or the intention of a government. This should be the work of intellectuals through education, where there is ample scope for debate, freedom of opinion and freedom of disagreement. Government enters the picture only when things degenerate into disorder. Banning dance bars is equivalent to banning certain political or cultural ideologies, and it is a very immoral act.


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