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The recent incident of a passport officer Vikas Mishra lashing out at an inter-faith couple, is a clear case of how moral policing is an everyday thing in our society.
Religious bigotry is deeply embedded in our country and cases of moral policing are far too many. The most recent incident which made headlines and which yet again threw light on the inherent intolerance towards different faiths is that of a passport officer Vikas Mishra.
The passport officer in the Lucknow Passport Sewa Kendra was quite irked when Tanvi Seth and her husband Anas Siddiqui applied for their passports. On seeing that Tanvi had not got her name changed in her documents post the inter-faith marriage, he lashed out at her saying things like, “Aapke saath to masla hai. Aapne Muslim se shaadi ki hai to aapka naam Tanvi Seth kaise ho sakta hai? (There is a glitch. You have married a Muslim, so how can your name be Tanvi Seth?)” He also went on to humiliate the husband and asked him to change his religion and do pheras.
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The couple was quite traumatized by the spiteful behavior of the officer and the woman broke down owing to the unsavoury turn of events. When the couple went on to complain about the incident to the APO, he told them that this was not the first time that there was a complaint against Mishra.
Tanvi later on tweeted about her ordeal to Minister Of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj.
@SushmaSwaraj hello ma’am I type this tweet with immense faith in justice and in you and ironically with a lot of anger / hurt and agony in my heart because of the way I was treated at the Lucknow passport office at Ratan Square by Mr. Vikas Mishra the reason because I marri 1/2
— Tanvi Seth (@tanvianas) June 20, 2018
@SushmaSwaraj 2/2 married a Muslim and not changed my name ever. He spoke to me very rudely and was loud enough for others to hear while discussing my case. I have never felt so harassed ever before. The other workers at the office acknowledged his rude demeanour.
Subsequently, Vikas Mishra was given a show cause notice and transferred to Gorakhpur. But, he has been since claiming that he was merely doing his job and that Tanvi Seth and her husband Anas Siddiqui are making false accusations.
We cannot say if he was following the protocol or not but we can certainly gauge that this was a clear case of moral policing. If the applicant has not provided proper documents, even then nobody gives you the right to question their inter-faith marriage and ask the husband to convert and say distasteful things.
This incident also brings forth another appalling facet of our society. Marriage, which is a personal affair, is often met with outrageous comments and is susceptible to value judgment by the society at large. In this case, Tanvi Seth was questioned as to why she did not change her name after marrying a man from a different faith. Had she changed her name, then too she would have been shamed at having changed her identity/religion owing to her marriage. So, basically, moral policing and shaming is a norm in our county, which claims to be a secular state.
As of now, Tanvi and her husband have been handed over their passports. But, we wonder when will this bigotry, coupled with moral policing be uprooted from the social milieu and when will people be free to marry anyone without constantly worrying that they could be publically shamed for living their life on their own terms. Hope that day is not long in the offing.
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