By Shikha Sreenivas
In an affidavit to the Supreme Court, the Maharashtra Government has said that bar dancing is “not an art form that needs to be protected and promoted” because such activities are “vulgar and derogatory”.
Last year the Maharashtra Government framed what they called the “Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women Act 2016”. It demanded the abolition of alcohol anywhere near the dancers at the dance bars and the installation of CCTV cameras on premises. This was in an effort to protect the “honour and dignity” of young women.
In the recent affidavit to the Supreme Court, the Maharashtra Government defended the Act on the grounds that the girls are “not trained artistes” and that there is “no art in their dance”. Their logic is that in the absence of art, “performances tend to become…obscene” and that this is because “the dances in question are not classical forms of dance”.
It seems that the Maharashtra Government has managed to resolve the age old philosophical question of “what is art?” overnight.
All they seem to want, going by what they said in the affidavit, is to “protect the dignity of girls”. Isn’t that all anyone seems to want to do these days? As Abu Azmi said in a tweet defending his ridiculous comments on the recent Bangalore mass molestation, all he believes is “Culture should be strictly followed”. The Maharashtra Government perhaps has access to this same Rulebook of Culture.
The voices of the dancers at these bars, whose dignity the Maharashtra Government is so worried about, isn’t really being heard. In this interview with the Deccan Chronicle one dancer spoke about how in the absence of work, she and her colleagues would have to “beg or turn to flesh trade”. Which begs the question of how concerned the officials behind this act are about the girls themselves, or is it just the “obscenity” they fear?
In another interview with Times of India, Alisha, a minor who was “rescued” from a dance bar during a raid in Mumbai said, “I do not see anything wrong in dancing in front of customers and I equate it to any artist performing live in front of an audience’s”.
Perhaps what is really needed to determine whether any young girl’s “honour and dignity” is being threatened could begin with their own voices.