Kiran Ahuja and her sister, Shilpa are residents of a residential complex in Goregeon, Mumbai who like to feed stray dogs. Considering the amount of trauma animals face during the loud bursts of crackers in Diwali, you’d think the Ahuja sisters’ kind gestures would be treated with smiles, if not pats on their backs. But on October 24, they were in for a rude shock as members from their residential complex surrounded them and beat them up for feeding strays.
Both sisters, who are registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), stood their ground and filed a non-cognisable complaint agains the residential society with the Dindoshi police in Mumbai. According to a report, the members didn’t stop at that. When the sisters went to their apartment to collect their things (they have sought temporary refuge elsewhere) on October 29, they were allegedly verbally harassed by the society’s committee member Purshottam Shetty and three others for raising their voices against the society. They were allegedly threatened that their life will not be easy if they continued to oppose society members.
This isn’t Mumbai’s first brush with vigilante justice, or more appropriately, vigilante bullying. In April this year, a 19-year-old Alexander Philip was beaten up by members of Thakur Village’s residential complexes for smoking near the society’s premises. Philip had sustained injuries to his ear, jaws and rib cage. Thakur Village is notorious for forming informal vigilante bullying committees to keep an eye on the ongoings of people in the area, which mostly involve young men and women, and prune out activities they consider ‘inappropriate’ and anti-social, like smoking and partying.
In August this year, a video showed members of Essel Towers, a residential complex in Gurgaon, fighting with a woman named Shivani Singh and her male friend, who were raising their voices for being denied entry into Singh’s apartment. In the video, one member of the society accused her of running a prostitution racket in her home.
Vigilante groups are just moral policing members in the guise of ‘well-meaning’ watchers of anti-social activities in the area. Residential society committees in India have been playing bully with the support and force of sheer numbers. A report stated that many high rises and residential complexes in Delhi/NCR do not allow pets or bachelors entry into its premises.
Most of these vigilante aunties and uncles need a rude awakening that their binoculars are doing only harm, no good. They stand confident behind the force of bullying society members who set up ridiculous society rules to follow and threaten eviction at the slightest sign of protest. This chain can perhaps be broken with the likes of Kiran and Shilpa Ahuja coming forward with their stories and registering complaints against them with the police. But the question remains, who appointed them Batman yaar? Someone break their bat signal.