Two consenting adults book a hotel room. The girl changes her everyday salwar kameez to don a saree to appear married to her boyfriend. They enter the room, awkwardly undress and have sex for the first time, undisturbed for a few moments, before the cops barge in. The girl is humiliated on camera and repeatedly slapped whist being branded a prostitute. The boy, fearing the cops' threats to call his parents, slits his wrists.
In what sounds disturbingly like a retelling of this first scene from Masaan - a film currently in the theatres - 40 couples were harassed, fined and thrown out of hotels and lodges in the vicinity of Madh Island and Aksa in Mumbai, on 6 August at 3pm, following a raid by a Mumbai police team from Malwani police, under the supervision of Deputy Commissioner Vikram Deshpande.
The couples were charged with Section 110 of Bombay Police Act, 1951, for 'indecent behaviour in public' despite being in the privacy of their rooms, and fined Rs 1,200 after being humiliated for five hours. Some were even threatened with a phone call to their parents, mid-day reports.
The law states: "No person shall willfully and indecently expose his person ill any street or public place or within sight of, and in such manner as to be seen from any street or public place, whether from within any house or building or not, or use indecent language or behave indecently or riotously, or in a disorderly manner in a street or place of public resort or in any office station or station house."
The first irony here, of course, is that neither were the couples displaying their 'indecency' (read: having sex) in public and nor were they displaying the act from the privacy of their rooms to the outside world.
Secondly, they were adults in the privacy of their rooms wherein they were allowed to sleep, eat, have sex, pillow fight (without damaging property) or watch TV, as they had paid for the same.
Thirdly, this was not a prostitution racket, a historically practised profession still illegal in India that women are globally shamed with, directly proportional to the number of men they have sex with.
And lastly, they were having consensual sex (if at all) at an age permissible by the law of the land.
A 19-year-old girl among those caught told mid-day that she was contemplating suicide as her parents have stopped talking to her after the incident.
A 21-year-old had to explain that she was in the hotel with her fiance, whom she is to marry in a month. A woman constable allegedly slapped her for trying to protest.
"I am not a prostitute. I am an adult who was out with my fiance, who I am supposed to marry next month, to find some privacy. I had entered my name in the hotel register with my identity proof and also handed over the relevant documents when asked by the cops. But, when I tried to tell a female constable all of this, she slapped me," she said, as quoted in mid-day.
The curious thing about India is that you can be legally caught and fined for kissing in a park, but if you could afford a hotel room for some private time, you could still get caught for the same reason - indecency in public.
In an age where the Supreme Court acknowledges live-in couples, a couple sharing a hotel room for a night or two should ideally not be a moral concern for the police.