A man was beaten for kissing his partner while bathing in a holy river in India in an apparent case of moral policing in a country where public display of affection remains a taboo.
An investigation was launched after a viral video of the couple showed them being dragged out by a huge crowd from the Sarayu river – one of the seven tributaries of the Ganges – in northern Uttar Pradesh (UP) state’s Ayodhya city and being assaulted.
Ayodhya is considered to be a holy city because the Hindu community believes it to be the birthplace of one of their most revered deities. Most of the rivers in the area are considered sacred as well.
A clip of the incident has been viewed some 1.8 million times. It showed the couple bathing in the river – an ordinary sight in holy cities in India – but a man in the river tries to drag the couple out as the person shooting the video can be heard asking, “Do you not have a family?”
“Aren’t you ashamed of doing this?” one man in the crowd asked.
The pair were soon surrounded by dozens of people who shouted at them while dragging them out, the video showed.
The man was hit and thrashed, with one slap on his face knocking away his spectacles.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Ayodhya police said an investigation had started.
A police official told news agency Press Trust of India that the exact date of the incident was yet to be confirmed and that they were trying to find the couple to ascertain if they would like to press charges.
“We have not received any complaint yet. However, we are investigating the matter and trying to find the couple and the miscreants who attacked them,” an officer said.
It is not clear if the couple was married though journalist Suneet Singh who shared the video claimed the two were husband and wife.
In India, incidences of attacks remain rampant by vigilante groups who consider themselves the gatekeepers of morality in a society where topics involving sex, including premarital sex, remain largely forbidden for religious and cultural reasons.
UP is ruled by the right-wing Hindu nationalist chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who has created “anti-Romeo squads” in the state, purportedly to fight cases of indecency and sexual crimes.