Following the move by the police in Surat, Gujarat, to prohibit exuberant birthday celebrations in public, the big question has become, “Did the authorities go overboard or they have a point?”. By calling rituals such as smearing cake on faces and giving birthday bumps as “cruel and violent” behaviour, do the cops have a point or are they needlessly shoring up their worth as neighbourhood vigilantes? Is this another case of overreach by the authorities? Could be a bit of both. Celebrations, especially involving the youth, can and often do get raucous but if they are not bothering other patrons or the public at large, then frankly no authority has any business to intervene and play spoilsport. After all, a bit of smeared cake never killed anyone. However, it is also true that some birthday celebrations can go a bit too far. Birthday bumps are no laughing matter, particularly as you get older, and can leave a person fairly badly bruised, if not injured, if done in an inebriated or spirited condition in a group. Most often this harmless physical banter can descend into bullyism, chaos and in worst cases assault. That said, extreme behaviour, one would like to believe, happens in only a minuscule of birthday jamborees. India’s cities are not free from pub brawls or harassment of women, particularly on New Year’s Eve parties or during cricket wins, and often pose a law and order problem. Does that mean we curb the idea of street parties altogether in the apprehension that all of them would test our manageable limits?
The problem with rules, regulations and a social ban is that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution to societal transgressions. For example, in this case, do authorities in Surat plan to draw up a code on dos and don’ts for celebrating birthday parties in public places, the cheapest venue of a get-together by college students? As it is, overly exuberant celebrations of any sort that create a public nuisance are already effectively banned because creating a public disturbance has always been against the laws. It would, therefore, be wiser for the authorities in Surat and other cities to first enforce those restrictions. In addition, they should run an education campaign through advertisements that celebrations are no excuse for physical assault and people can get badly hurt in the excitement. They must make it clear that forcing someone to partake in the festivities or even smearing cake on his/her face could amount to assault and a case would be made out against the offender. And indeed, the authorities should make it easier for any aggrieved party to file a case of assault or bullying. But it is not the job of the Surat Police or any police force in India to say how one should celebrate and what one can or cannot do within reasonable bounds.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer