When visitors walked into a Janmashthami fair in Porbandar last weekend, a set of posters put up by the police caught their attention. The posters, with prominent photographs of Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel, called upon women not to dress “indecently” and use cellphones with care.
The posters came under severe criticism, forcing the police to pull them down. Although the police said the posters were meant for a separate function and had found their way to the fair “by mistake”, they stood by the messages.
“As part of a two-week programme aimed at women’s empowerment in the run-up to the Independence Day, we had organised a function for prominent women, including representatives from NGOs, women self-help groups and post-graduate students of rural studies.
The posters were meant for the 400 invited women and had been displayed at our hall on police parade ground on August 12. But by mistake, they were displayed at the fair with other posters,” Ranchhod Hadiya, in-charge SP of Porbandar district police, told The Indian Express on Thursday.
The posters had been put up at the stall of the district police and state social welfare department at the fair on Chowpaty Cricket Ground, which began last Saturday. After criticism from rights groups, the police removed the posters on Wednesday, just hours before the fair concluded.
While one of the controversial posters read, “Do not venture out dressing indecently”, another advised: “Ask your daughter to use cellphone with discretion.” These were among 300-odd posters, put up by the police. The others had messages on girld child and women’s safety.
SP Hadiya said displaying the controversial posters at the fair was a mistake but maintained that they stood by their messages. “Every parent would agree to the suggestions we made through the posters. The only problem is with phrasing of the messages. Instead of ‘indecently’ we could have written ‘decently’,” he said.
The SP said the posters were meant to raise awareness among the women who had been invited to the previous function only and that they had no intention of display them in public. He said the district police headquarters had prepared the two posters in question by downloading pictures from websites.
He said, “We stand by the posters. The messages are suggestions with sadbhavana (with good intention). Wouldn’t parents like their children to dress decently?”