Bar Dancers Case: Meeting of the Bar Owners Association II
Duration: 00:20:39; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 24.687; Saturation: 0.143; Lightness: 0.438; Volume: 0.368; Cuts per Minute: 6.198; Words per Minute: 132.089
Summary: This is footage of a public meeting organised by the Bar owners association against the proposed ban on dancing in bars in Maharashtra.
Dancing in bars of Bombay and other parts of Maharashtra began in 1970s. In 2005, the Maharashtra government proposed to ban dancing in the bars. The proposal sparked wide public debate on sexual morality, women's rights and right to livelihood. The civil society division on the issue was sharp as many women's organisations, left parties and trade unions supported the ban on issues of public morality and degradation of women's body. While many others, including Majlis, Forum against oppression of women, Women's studies research unit of SNDT university and other feminist groups opposed the ban on account of gender assault on right to livelihood, sexuality and performance. The ban got implemented on 15th august, 2005, the Independence Day. The ban was challenged in Bombay High court by the Bar dancers' union, feminists groups and bar owners associations. Majlis represented the bar dancers' union in the High court. On 12th April 2006 the Bombay High Court struck down the ban as unconstitutional. The Govt. appealed to the Supreme Court and thus affectively kept the bar closed inspite of the High court order. Presently the case is subjudiced.
This meeting was organized in the interim period of proposing the bill and actually implementing the ban. The bar owners and the bar dancers are traditionally not allies as their relationship is that of employers and employees. Many bars also exploited the dancers is severe manner. The stigma attached with dancing in bars prevented the women to raise voice against the bar owners. But in the present scenario the bar owners and the bar dancers are together against the Govt. decision to ban dance bars. Their survival are intertwined. The bars would suffer huge loss and many would close down in the eventuality of banning dancing.
Varsha Kale, President of Bar Dancers Union; Manjit Singh, President of bar owners association and few other bar owners speak about the situation, their perspectives on the situation and how they need to work together to be able to combat the ban and its effects.
A bar owner's view of the impending ban. He gives a parallel legal precedent to show how bans are not the solution and how they moblilise further illegal activity. The cycle of business and bribes will continue, and in fact, intensify.
Praveen Agarwal (A bar owner): The Government banned country liquor (hath bahtti - brew by hand) two months back. All of you would know what happened post the ban. The sale of country liquor went up and the Excise officers demanded more bribes. The bribes increased and then, country liquor started selling in small pouches. The Government has no well-defined terms as to how it can extract money from us. There are no well-defined terms about us. Today, if our bars shut down and our girls become penniless, the Government and police will still get their bribes. The police will still pay money for transfers and continue getting bribed.
Bobby Malhotra, Lawyer: It is misleading the youth. All I will say in this regard is that everyone knows no one below 21 can get into bars today, forget 18. Isn't a 2 years old child today watches less or more than what an adult watches in a dance bar? We have been seeing on the television over the past two days about the clothes... people who don't go to dance bars are not sure what kind of clothes these girls in dance bars wear. Do girls and women in films and discotheques wear more or less than the women in dance bars do? It is so apparent from the sudden raids and what has been shown on television over the past few days. As far as the moral issue is concerned, we cannot touch it today. A young child watches much more than what an adult is watching in a dance bar. And as far as the legal issue is concerned, as pointed out today-Sections 110, 294, 292 - I have always said that please don't plead guilty. Whoever comes to me, I tell them to fight out. If there is cases under 110, 292, 294 against you, fight them, don't plead guilty. The records show that, and you can check yourself, that anyone who has fought against cases under these sections, has always won. There is no conviction on grounds of 292, 294 and 110. All those people who have fought it out matter today. So, please don't plead guilty in any of those case. We will fight it out. We will definitely win.
Though the owners and Kale talk a lot about law, the voice of somebody from the legal profession appear somewhat re-assuring to the audience.
A bar owner ( a South Indian by accent) - (Mine is) Not a ladies' bar. But, I have always supported the ladies' bar people, because they are also human and Kareerna Shetty sir in Thane is senior to even to me. He is the first person, be it morally or monetarily, when you are in need... he is there. So, I am deeply attached to the people of the ladies bars. The people of the ladies bars have risen from poverty. They earn and take care of their sisters and parents, build houses in every village, give money to every month (to the family)... I am very proud of these fellows. That's why I am here. The Government takes a wrong step anytime. They cheat the poor of their livelihood, they cheat the hoteliers of their livelihood, the license fees are hiked and nobody protests. We have no unity amongst us. You know how much the license fees has been hiked. And now, I had even given it in the paper, don't hike by even 10%. Protest! No one will help us, none does. Now, suddenly, R R Patil sir, paying heed to someone's words, has shut down the bars completely. This is wrong, because behind the dance bars, there is the woman, her children, parents... so many people surviving due to one person. It is very shocking to see how many livelihoods have been dealt a blow. I am so shocked! We need to fight it. I congratulate Varsha Kaleji because she has said the right points. We need to first get permission from R R Patil and meet him and tell him these points and ask him to withdraw the case. We need to ask him to withdraw the shutting down of the bars, because now-a-days, people don't get jobs. These are ladies from villages, who come here for their parents. Look at the actors in films who take crores of rupees and dance naked. What do these big people do? Just what do they do? You poor people do it for a livelihood, and it is shut down! Big actors, living in Juhu and now an MP (Member of Parliament - must have meant dancing star Govinda), don't do decent business. Amitabh Bachchan was sunk in debts, yet he has now risen up... how? You give us that chance, help us. Big actors marry twice, thrice... is that lawful? Our poor girls, pregnant, with parents.... and me, I am the Advisor of the Aids Control Society. American Bill Gates helps ladies bars. Because I am the Advisor of the Thana District (of the Aids Control Society...so, I know) he spends a lot, supports the Government too (in this venture). He examines the problems in the ladies bar, asks what protection they need, American Bill Gates helps! And our own Government wants to shut it down... this we need to protest. Now, Varshatai and we will get an appointment with R R Patil sir and request him to withdraw the case - campaigning that many people would be rendered jobless.
Intentionally or otherwise, this bar owner raises a very important issue so far untouched in the meeting. It was obvious that the confidence and high handedness of the govt. in dealing with the dance bars was aided by the issue of public heath and the recent phenomena of campaigns on AIDS. Based on this climate the Govt. was sure that even an issue of rendering 70,000 women jobless would not become euphoric. This bar owners mentions, though tentatively, the issue of public health in the context of ban. He also sort of proposes that the issue of public health needs to be addressed and not to be swept under the carpet in the form of ban. The inevitable comparison between the highly celebrated and much commercialized bollywood films and dancing at bars also comes up. While the Bollywood is a national industry which yields high revenues, the dance bar is only a local and low intensity imitation of that. The govt. can neither oppose Bollywood nor the traditional commercial dances. But they want to stop the small local industry of the dance bar which has come up as cusp between these two practices. Obviously something else than a simple morality is behind the case.
aids control society
member of parliament
r r patil
A bar owner (a Sardar)- ... (I am proud that?) Manjit Singh has brought forward the fight against the Government, which made us prey to its wrong rules, so far. There have been certain shortcomings in us, due to which we come together only when the Government gives us such shocks. If we stay so (united), I think we won't have to face such circumstances. We strongly oppose the decision to shut down dance bars, leave alone in Bombay, but in the whole of Maharashtra. We won't let it happen ever. And police have wrongly harassed hotel owners under sections 110 or 294. About the charges that have been leveled over the past few days in Hardhik Punjab and in Mini Mahal (names of bars) ... the hotel owners know that there was no opportunity to do what has been alleged... it is harassment by the police. When the charges were levelled yesterday at 1 am, let me tell you that at 2am, I went there all alone. I had no intention of quarrelling with anyone or opposing them. The protest was to be placed with the police officer. When I reached the police station with my nephew, Hardeep, I saw around 100 anti-social elements storm into the senior's room. I would like to tell you that my nephew has only a couple of scars and I bravely fought those 100 men right there. We faced them as equals within the senior's room, in the police station, meeting their violence. And even outside... it is a fact that two men can't fight hundred. But, if we had two more men with us, I would have killed at least 10-20 of them, I have so much strength. We have the power to chase away 100 men, if there are even 5 more men with us. I say, this is on the lower side when considered my Sikh lineage; each of us should have the strength to fight a lakh or more. There must be some shortcoming that we are unable to do so. I would also like to tell you that I have never been proven guilty under 33W, 110, 294. Ever since I started running these ladies bars or ladies service bars, I have fought all the cases and have never lost, and have never been punished whatsoever. I also request you (to fight) how we do. The moment the case is filed, in the middle of the night, I complain against those police authorities to their seniors and Commissioner and also file a case in court after that. I have never spared anybody. There's a name by which we are well-known, Manjit Singh and I. Manjit knows about it or again, maybe not. People know me as Shani Grahn (The Saturn planet - carrier of misfortune) Manjit Singh too... it is said that if we are up at night, then we let no one sleep. I will also prove in the near future that it will not take me much time to take those people who have hurt Hardeep to their end. (Hardeep is his nephew who accompanied him to the police station) I placed a complain against the police officer within two hours and I don't think it will take me long to show him his place. I will expose how he is involved in many illegal activities, how his hotel movements (?) are, how he is involved in prostitution, where he has his properties and how many mistresses he has. And I hope that all our brothers too fight against any untoward incident that occurs with them.
There is a chance of the whole thing developing into a street fight phenomena. The cadres of the ruling party are out in implementing of the instruction of their high commands. The police and the other state arms would protect them. The bar owners are at the edge of their patience too. But some, like the present speaker, believes in using their citizenship rights against all odds. He is not scared of the authoritarian high handedness of the police nor is he ignorant of his rights - unlike many of his colleagues. Many bar owners, either due to ignorance or under the social belief that they are in the wrong in running dance bars, have cowed down to unreasonable pressure from the police or made themselves more vulnerable. But this man, a proud Sardar, knows how to invoke the laws to keep the so-called legal authorities at bay. But his faith in his personal physical strength is charming though not practical.
bar owners association
cr p c
Manjit Singh: No matter how big the hotelier is... somebody had mentioned that big hotel owners are not here. There are some of them, including from Bombay, in out midst. Whoever I invited over the phone, I am seeing all of them here. Even the owner of Topaz, Mr. Parvez Raees, is here, showing that there is no issue of big-small, it's a problem for the whole hotel industry and we will fight it out together. (Topaz is a famous beer bar on Grant Road). He has assured me that no one will be exempted from any decision of the association and if anyone turn traitor, we will not let him open his hotel, no matter which minister he sticks to. We will remain closed tomorrow, and on the 2nd.... you have tomorrow to gather your staff, and on the 2nd, we will go to Azad Maidan. (A ground in South Mumbai known for the protests and political rallies that happen there. Azad means "Free"). We will break the record of the 20th August (a revered date in the history of independence) protest. And we will give our girls placards that ask - 'if we don't even have the right to dance' / 'Our rights are being snatched away from us'
On August 20th, 2004, many bar dancers in Bombay joined a protest/demonstration against police raids where the dancers were arrested on charges of obscenity. They protested against police harassment and mistreatment by the police. That was the first public visibility of the bar dancers' union and many dancers appeared in public from the first time. Manjit Singh's call for the 2nd July protest meeting is influenced by the success of that meeting. Though his attempt to equate their demonstration with the independence movement is a bit far fetched, to say the least.
bar dancers union
bar owners association
Manjit Singh: all of them need girls every night. It has been proved time and again that girls are supplied into the MLA hostel. We will ask the girls to knock on the doors of the minister's cars and ask them, "Shall we?" (Chalta hai kya: a common "come-on" term/innuendo associated with such kind of sexual activity) we will show them what is respect, disrespect and their culture. They want to teach us culture! There are such incidents that show that even relationships are not respected here. There are so many ministers whose illicit affairs have made it to the newspapers and the whole world is aware of this. We are so much better than these people; we are not animals. If we call a girl our sister, our daughter, our daughter-in-law, then that's what she is. Though not our own blood, our daughters-in-law are our children for whom we harbour no wayward thoughts. We are cultured. We know very well what is right and wrong. Our standards are much higher than theirs. Demonstration on the 2nd! We will go to Azad Maidan! People from Kamshet are here. People from Poona and Nagpur too will accompany you. We will have to ready our girls today itself. If you fail in this show of strength, then you will fall to their batons everyday, and no one can save you.
The meeting now invariably goes towards hurling abuses to the others. Manjit Singh infers gory sex scandals on the part of the state leaders who are proposing the ban on public morality. The whole arguments turn into name calling and the issue of rights and livelihood take a back seat.
Manjit singh: Some information has come in now, one that I mentioned earlier. In front of my hotel, in Karishma, demonstrators have arrived and the police has said there could be trouble and that we should protect ourselves. No problem! If they break, then we will answer. We will go straight there from here and show them how strong we are. And we will go unarmed. We have no weapon.
Manjit Singh: What has been declared a bandh (closure) will be a bandh. And we will see how big a demonstration they bring to our place. And if they touch any of our hotel staff, we will even pull them out of their houses and hit them. We will go straight there from here and our protests begin not tomorrow, but today. No hotel will open. We will shut them all. No hotel will open today! All hotels will shut from today. We will show them how strong we are. We will forget we are their slaves, we won't die hungry. The God who created us will feed us too. We will break the arms and necks of those who dare raise their hands against us. Jai Hind! Jai Maharashtra! Thank you very much!
Shouts: No one.. no one... Straight to Karishma!
Manjit Singh: Tell your staff, ask them to reach Karishma. It is time for our show of strength. We need to fight for our rights. We will never run away.
Reporter: Sir, the whole hotel industry...
Manjit Singh: Our protests start today. No hotel will open.
Reporter: What's the decision?
(Mumbling and incoherent questions and shouts)
Shots of the audience. Almost like a popular flick the meeting reaches a climax with the news of Manjit singh's bar being attacked and the bored looking audience gets animated. The insipid talk of legal strategies and collective principle become completely inadequate. Manjit Singh and other on stage get agitated. The attack on Majit Singh's bar, which definitely meant to provoke the bar owners, derive the intended result.
For Manjit Singh, who was putting on a democratic front by asking the bar owners to participate in the decision of voluntary closure, now takes matters into his own hands by declaring a bandh with immediate effect. The media gets close to him with their paraphenalia. The hundred-strong crow contemplate whether to head towards Karisma Bar or maybe to go to protect their own establishments. But even in that situation Manjit Singh does not forget to mouth the slogan: Jai Maharashtra (hail Maharashtra) - to make evidence to his allegiance to Maharashtra. In the context of identity politics of Maharashtra it is very important for every non-Maharashtrain staying in Bombay to prove the allegiance, specially in front of the media.
bar owners association
A news report on Aaj Tak accompanied by some mandatory shots of the dance bars. The media, with their sharp cuts and funky shots make the dance bar appear far more exciting a place that what it is actually. They also show some old footage of the time when the bar dancers used to appear in front of the media with their faces hidden in veils. Well, it must be part of making the story attractive - the glammour of hidden faces and freaky entertainments. In reality the situation is much more mundane.
The Government has extracted high amount of license fees from the dance bars. In the case of the bars shutting down the Govt. is liable to return the money to the bar owners. This means a heavy loss to the Govt. treasury. Besides, there will also be a heavy loss on account of excise duty, entertainment tax etc. Yet the govt. proposed the ban and in fact implemented it within 45 days of this meeting (15th August). What could be the hidden agenda? Some people say it is woo the middle class Marathi vote bank. Some other opines that it is to reduce the sale of beer and boast the newly formed wine industry which is owned by the members of the ruling parties. Yet another opinion is that the whole act is directed to close down cheap and small eateries in preference to large food chains. It could also be linked with the escalating real estate price in Bombay. Maybe none of these or all of these have prompted the mysterious ban. What is beyond comprehension is the unusual zeal in implementing the ban.
News anchor: (Aaj tak) The Government has decided to shut down the dance bars, but the implementation is not going to be easy. The Government is also worried about how the heavy license fees extracted from the bar owners can be returned.
Voice Over: For the extravagant, the dance bars of Mumbai were no less than heaven. But, this is no longer to be. The state Government might have decided to ban these bars, but the Opposition says it will not be so easy to implement it.
Narayan Rane (Leader of the Opposition, Maharashtra Assembly): Bars are an issue in Mumbai. Only 307 bars are authorized. And those bars that run without license, what can they (the ruling party) do to them? How would they stop them from function? How can they implement the law they have made?
Voice over: Before Mumbai, the Government had decided to ban dance bars in other parts of Maharashtra. At the same time, it had decided to form a committee for Mumbai. But, the legal department advised the Government that it was not feasible to make different laws for Mumbai and for the rest of the state. Additionally, the Government would be troubled by different rules for stage performances and dance bars. But, according to the finance department, the Government will lose l8 crores per annum by shutting down these bars and additionally return the license fees of the dance bars. Yet, despite the predictions from the financial department, the Government has decided to ban the dance bars. But, there has been no plan for the livelihood of the bar girls. For now, the bar girls and bar owners are awaiting information from the Government on this, so that they can approach the Courts. Sahi Joshi, Mumbai, Aaj Tak. (Journalist, Sign-off)
leader of the opposition
News anchor (Aaj Tak): The dance bars are causing the Government more difficulties as the bar girls' protests too have come out into the open. When inspite of their protest the bars still got closed, they are now ready to approach the Court.
Voice over: the bar girls of Raigad district have been braving the heat of Azad Maidan since the 4th of April. (2005). but, after the Government's decision on Tuesday to ban dance bars in Mumbai too, the Mumbai bar girls too have joined their protests. Against the face of threat to their livelihood, they have started a demonstration against the Government.
Varsha Kale (President, Indian Bar Girls Union): For the first time in Indian history, such young girls are being robbed of their livelihood. So, everyone should stand up against it.
Voice over: Around 75,000 bar girls work in Mumbai's dance bars and they are demanding that the Government arrange for their livelihood. But the Government says it will only arrange jobs for Marathi girls. But, the bar girls are not in agreement with this.
Varsha Kale: not only girls, but there are many more people. So, is the Maharashtra Government formulating any law for it? And how will they throw out these girls? On what basis will they throw them out: muscle power?
Voice over: these girls have even been to Delhi, but to no avail. Hence, they have decided to move the Court. Vikas Shrivastav, Mumbai, Aaj Tak. (Journalist sign-off)
Some more shots of the 'veiled' bar dancers. The plight of the bar dancers made many human interest stories in those days. Yet the issue of public morality won at the end. The issue ranges from livelihood vs morality; Maharashtrian vs non-Maharashtrian; migration; police atrocity; gender bias among the authority; constitutional issues; abuse of authority among state arms; making of laws and many more. But defying all these finally the law got passed and implemented rendering around 70,000 dancers and many others such as cooks, waiters, bouncers, DJs, taxi drivers etc. jobless. A small sector in the massive service industry died.
indian bar dancers union
jobless. human interest