By Rishi Iyengar
August 10, 2015

The police commissioner of India’s western metropolis Mumbai has ordered an internal investigation into raids by officers last week at several suburban hotels, where unmarried couples were allegedly pulled out of hotel rooms and humiliated.

Commissioner Rakesh Maria ordered the probe after a strong social-media backlash against what many deemed unjustified interference into citizens’ privacy, the Hindu newspaper reports.

Police raided multiple hotels in Mumbai’s suburbs last Thursday, saying they had received reports from locals of widespread prostitution in the area. More than 40 couples were dragged out of their rooms and accused of “public indecency.”

Many couples, particularly those who were students, were humiliated and made to call their parents before being released five hours later after paying a fine of 1,200 rupees (about $19). One woman, who was with her fiancé, alleged that she was slapped by a female constable when she protested.

“I am not a prostitute,” the 21-year-old woman told local newspaper Mid-Day, adding that she had booked a room under her own name to get some privacy with the man she is set to marry next month. “If you want to take legal action, fine the hotels or lodges if any of them allow immoral activities like prostitution to go on in their premises,” she said. “Making love to the person of my choice in a private room doesn’t amount to indecent behavior in public.”

Diktats by Indian authorities against acts or behavior perceived as being against the country’s cultural values are fairly common, as are (sometimes violent) protests against observances like Valentine’s Day, which has become an annual fixture in Mumbai and other cities. Bars and nightclubs promoting “Western culture” are frequently raided, and movies often don’t make it past India’s increasingly stringent censor board.

The most recent instance of moral policing was the blocking of more than 800 porn websites by the Indian government — a ban that was later revised and significantly toned down following widespread outrage.

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