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At Karachi University, vigilantes nip young love in Bud

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At Karachi University, vigilantes nip young love in Bud
« on: October 07, 2013, 08:13:03 AM »
At Karachi University, vigilantes nip young love in Bud
Karachi :October 07: At Karachi University, couples once walked holding hands through the Prem Gali: an arched stone walkway, hidden beneath shady trees, away from the humdrum of food stalls. But not any more.
For decades, a group has been religiously trying to hold back young love. There have been no innovations, it follows the same cycle.
Target one is to find young men who have the cheek to befriend girls. Step two is to watch them for a few days. Whether the relationship is romantic or innocent friendship is left open to the interpretation of the onlookers.
The next step is to warn them. “Bhai zara sambhal ke” (be cautious brother).
When all warnings go in vain, the unsuspecting soul is pounced upon, usually by four men ready to beat him to a pulp. His fault: spreading “fahashi” – loosely translated as vulgarity – on the campus.
The vigilantes even smear the places considered hotspots for intermingling of both sexes. The raised platform in the arts lobby, which leads to the sociology department, is literally greased at the beginning of each semester. Blobs of grease are spread generously all over the floor to prevent young couples from sitting there and sharing a quiet moment or two.
But they say young love is hard to contain. The love-struck couples usually find alternatives. They sit at the numerous libraries, not for the love of books but to steal a whisper or exchange promises to be together till death.


Victims’ accounts


Asma* was once sitting with a school friend at the mass communication department.


The couple was sitting on a black leather sofa in one corner of a huge lobby.


“There were no springs in the seat so when we sat it reclined to a position between sitting and lying. I think that struck them as indecent,” she explains.


Four boys told Asma’s friend to get up, and slapped him: 17 times in a minute, claimed witnesses. Then they took him outside the department, and thrashed him.


“It was embarrassing. I was furious... and scared. I did not come to the university for a week,” she admits.


Bilal* was excited, as he had managed to borrow his dad’s car to the university that day. It was drizzling, and he decided to drive around the campus with his friend.


They stopped for fresh juice near the bus terminal, and in the 15 minutes, he recalls holding her hand for just a few seconds.


“Two boys looking at us came to our car [and said] ‘You cannot roam around the campus like this. Get out of this area before we feel the need to take action’,” Bilal says.


“I sped out of the campus. I did not want to be beaten up, that too in front of my girlfriend,” he laughs.


The moral police


The rightwing Islami Jamiat-e- Talaba (IJT), the student political faction accused of moral policing, claims it has good reason to do so. “We never attack anyone without warning. You come to the university to study, not to date. If we do not stop this vulgarity, people will be having babies on the campus,” said an IJT activist requesting anonymity.


Another representative admits to have slapped a student for getting too close to a girl. “I saw him with a girl in a Land Cruiser. How do I tell you what he was doing…he was getting too physical... let’s [just] keep it to that. I took him out of the car and slapped him several times. To this day when he meets me he says, ‘Bhai, I still remember your slaps’. I smile and tell him, ‘But you still haven’t turned over a new leaf’.”


These self-appointed guardians of morality claim they are doing a favour. “The Rangers are too scared to tackle this vulgarity. We are doing the [university] administration a favour,” said Qazi Mansoor, a senior member of the IJT.


The student union activists boast how they had burnt down trees around Prem Gali in the year 2000, because couples sat there. “Now there is no privacy there and so people keep their emotions in control,” Mansoor said.


And perhaps, the empty corners at the once-popular Prem Gali prove the moral police have been doing their job.The news.
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