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Lovers and criminals

Now that terrorists are no longer around and threats to national security have disappeared, the long arm of the law seems to be busy acting as a culture police. During the past few days, the police have swooped on many young couples kissing and cuddling or just holding hands in public places and apprehended about 200 of them, many of them schoolchildren. Some of them have even been produced before magistrates for alleged indecent behaviour and others reprimanded and released. The police are also removing hoardings considered indecent or offensive, we are told.

Laws must be implemented and lawbreakers dealt with. Love is something noble but most lovers confuse it with carnal desire. Some young couples misbehave scandalising the public, especially parents who visit parks and beaches, accompanied by their children. So, there may be situations where the young lovers overstep limits and they need to be told that the sky is not the limit in expressing their love. But, handling boys and girls of school-going age is a task that the police must carry out with utmost care without devastating the lives of young lovers because being hauled up before courts carries social stigma which they will have to live with for the rest of their lives in a society like ours, especially in the rural and semi-urban areas.

Therefore, young lovers should not be treated like common criminals, rounded up and trucked to courts in full view of the public. After all, this is a country where even criminals are handled with kid gloves or given VIP treatment. Let the IGP be urged to involve teachers, parents, guardians and the media in creating awareness among schoolchildren and young adults of the laws and weaning them from deviant practices and misconduct at issue which run counter to social norms and plunge them in trouble.

It is surprising that the police lack the same high octane performance when they deal with lawbreakers who pose a real threat to the society like drug barons, killers, robbers and rapists. True, those elements do not operate out in the open like the young lovers in parks and at bus stations and are therefore difficult to catch, but the police must make an effort to hunt them down and bring down the crime rate. There are many cases of burglaries reported day in day out from many parts of the country and a woman wearing a gold chain cannot walk on a public road without fearing for her safety. The police do not do enough to ensure public safety, though they have now taken to enforcing morality.

This year we have had two elections, presidential and parliamentary, and politicians, especially the ruling party ones, who have risen above the law, flouted each and every election law. They defaced wayside walls, lamp posts, road signs etc and resorted to naked violence and intimidation against their rivals with impunity. Zillions of posters were pasted in unauthorised places under the nose of the police, who looked the other way. There were illegal motorcades and processions by the UPFA politicians but the IGP and his subordinates pretended that they were blind. If only the police had descended on those politicians the way they are arresting lovers in public places, many of the present lawmakers would have been behind bars.

The police must get their priorities right. As they are now relieved of anti-terror operations, they ought to concentrate fully on battling crime and restoring law and order. If they think they can cover up their serious lapses by turning to soft targets like young lovers who misbehave, they are mistaken. Let them deal with criminals––first of all.

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