Facing severe social media censure over alleged moral policing by the police, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is expected to review today why cops raided hotels and detained couples in Madh and Marve.
The city's police commissioner Rakesh Maria has already ordered a probe into the incident after complaints from some of the couples who alleged they were in consensual relationships and that their privacy had been violated.
"I have asked the additional CP to probe into this and file a report. We have nothing to do with two consensual adults in a room. But, there were a lot of complaints from members of the public about drinking, pimps and prostitution racket flourishing in the vicinity," Maria told The Times of India.
Several people have reacted strongly to the incident, condemning the police action. Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women's Association secretary and women's rights worker wrote on Facebook, "Seriously folks, it's not enough to blame the saffronised Govt of Maharashtra and the Mumbai police. Everyone out there - stop moral policing! Sharing a hotel room does NOT require a marriage certificate and you should ALL assert that."
Others used Twitter to express their anger.
Under who's orders the Mumbai Police arrested couples from Hotels?Was it under orders of Political Bosses or their Boss?#ComeClean— Jayanta K Mohapatra (@Jkm567) August 10, 2015
Mumbai couples picked up from hotels, do laws disallow unmarried couples from staying in hotel rooms? https://t.co/LWYkysJodb— Enigmatic Paradox (@VGLICIOUS_) August 10, 2015
Arresting couples from hotel rooms and charging them with "public indecency".
Go home Mumbai Police. You're drunk. Again.— Chirag Agarwal (@__chirag_) August 10, 2015
According to reports, the raids were allegedly carried out after an "unverified tip-off" suggesting "prostitution-like activities" were taking place in these hotels. The Malwani police carried out raids where they rounded up 13 couples and booked them for indecent behaviour in public (section 110 of the Bombay Police Act), following which they had to pay a fine of Rs 1,200 each after being held for over five hours. Three separate cases were also registered for prostitution.
Those who were arrested said they were "humiliated" even after they showed their ID documents proving they were romantic partners.
“There was a knock on my door at 4 pm," said one 37-year-old man to Indian Express. "A hotel employee asked us to come down with our ID cards. We were taken aback but we cooperated. Once we went down to the lobby, they (the police) made us stand in one single line in the compound and checked our IDs. We were checked at the hotel between 4 pm and 6.30 pm by various police personnel. Unhone humein bahut zaleel kiya (They humiliated us a lot).”
Another eyewitness reported that a 21-year-old woman was slapped by a lady constable after she said she was with her fiance. “The lady constable told her to bring her children to prove they were a couple,” said the eyewitness.
Even one of the owners of the hotels where the raids took place has spoken out in protest. “They raided my hotel at 4 pm and didn’t leave until 7 pm. My guests were humiliated. They were asked to come to the compound and then questioned for hours as if they were terrorists,” said Harish Shetty, owner of Mantara Residency. “I have 48 cameras to prove what happened. The officers never identified themselves, they just told me that the DCP had ordered them to do so. We don’t know which rules we violated."
Others reported police officials manhandled hotel staff, and knocked on every door of the hotels. While cops have said they do not support moral policing, an internal investigation on the entire operation is underway. They claimed that several locals of these areas had also complained about these "prostitution-like" activities.