#SwachhOrchestra: Eliminate obscenity in Orchestra Dance & Bhojpuri Entertainment Industry

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India and her daughters are still not safe!

Almost everyday we read and hear about ‘Nirbhaya’-like incidents in news reports in papers and on channels. In some instances, the victims are toddlers as young as 1 year old! If the crimes against girls and women are continuing to skyrocket despite so many laws, campaigns, and movements, then something is terribly wrong. 

There are several factors that contribute to this horrifying phenomenon. We believe that the most notable cause for this in North India is the rampant objectification of women.

Women have been reduced being objects of lust. The Bhojpuri entertainment industry is where this kind of objectification is promoted in the form of dance performances by women at orchestra. Orchestra may be an English word but in UP and Bihar where this is popular, it means only one thing: obscene dancing. 

Any reference to Bhojpuri-- be it music, film, theatre or dance-- has become a euphemism for sexism and obscenity today. No wonder patriarchy and misogyny are thriving! It is tragic that a language so rich and diverse has been desecrated to just sexist videos and double meaning dialogues. 

Such programmes and music videos have reached almost every village in UP and Bihar. What’s worse is that even school children as young as 10 years old are now seen watching and absorbing these disturbing lewd performances. This not only robs them of their innocence but also discolours their worldview, their ways of perceiving the women in their lives.

How can women’s empowerment, justice and gender equality be promoted when such a climate prevails? 

India has several laws like Sections 292, 293 and 294 of the Indian Penal Code that speak at length about obscenity. Therefore, the problem is not the absence of laws but the lack of proper monitoring and regulation.

Concerned citizens in places like in Arrah, Chhapra and Siwan have lodged police complaints against these orchestra dances. Many have gone to the extent of filing cases in court. Some youth groups have even been monitoring social media for sleazy content in Bhojpuri.

Although all these are commendable efforts they struggle to make an impact at a macro level. But transforming mindsets at the state level will require that the government steps in. We want the state governments of UP and Bihar to lead this campaign from the front.

Through this campaign, we want the Chief Ministers and Home Ministers of both states to introduce the following Guidelines for Orchestra Performances keeping in mind the definition of obscenity as per existing laws.

1. All dance performances that are non-classical and non-folk in public spaces must end by 10pm. Make it mandatory for programme organisers to seek police permission before holding such events down to the village level. Ensure that police verification is strictly adhered to before granting permission.

2. The orchestra programme organisers must be held legally responsible for ensuring that there are no lewd performances. Audio video recordings of programmes that go beyond the 10 pm-deadline must be submitted within 24 hours at the police station in whose zone the event took place.

3. Police personnel must be present at every such programme for the purpose of monitoring and surveillance. The village head (Sarpanch) must be held responsible for all acts that take place during such orchestra events. Entry to Programmes that go on after 10 pm should be restricted to those under 18 years of age.

4. Political parties must be directed to not use such obscene events to gather audiences, the police permission should be cancelled/withdrawn when any political party flouts this rule.

5. The state governments must ask the Central government to have strict rules for obscenity in Bhojpuri entertainment industry.

6. Strict action must be taken against government servants found attending such events. Action may include fines, suspension and termination of service.

7. Elected representatives must be barred from attending, sponsoring and promoting such programmes in all forms-- be it on the ground or online.

8. Pass a law similar to Maharashtra’s Prohibition of Obscene Dance Act 2016 for the safety of kids and women.

It’s unfortunate that these programmes have carried out without any checks in the past. If we don’t take a step against these today, we will be raising a generation that will think that women are just objects and crimes against women will continue to escalate.

Purvanchal Vikas Pratishthan