Hyderabad: The civic agency for Hyderabad faced public anger this week as one of the city’s most prominent recreational spaces, the 68-acre Indira Park, was ruled off-limits for unmarried couples. The diktat, meant to prevent alleged instances of public display of affection (PDA), was revoked in two days.
At the centre of the row was the banner planted outside by the park management, which comes under the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). It said “unmarried couples are not allowed inside the park”.
Photos of the banner went viral, drawing barbs from the city’s residents, who described the rule as “a new level of moral policing”.
As the banner was removed Thursday, a GHMC official acknowledged that it was “worded wrong” even as they defended the intention behind it.
Speaking to ThePrint, J. Muralidhar, Deputy Director of the GHMC’s Urban Biodiversity Wing, said the decision to put up the banner was taken after receiving “‘n’ number of calls from citizens complaining about couples involved in indecent physical activity like cuddling”, especially at night.
The intention was to send out a message that the public should “behave decently” in public parks, he added.
“We tried all means to stop couples from behaving in such an indecent way in public — they are cuddling, expressing love to each other in a physical way… is it not embarrassing to see all that to others?” he said.
“Children, senior citizens and families come to park — we received ‘n’ number of complaints on this matter. In fact, after we put up a banner – we received many calls from citizens thanking us,” Muralidhar added.
Indira Park, situated in the heart of the city, is one of Hyderabad’s oldest parks and a prominent tourist attraction. It is named after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The GHMC, Muralidhar said, has a “responsibility to maintain the reputation of the park”.
“If we encourage such activities — the park will become notorious for such things,” he added. There are hardly four security guards in the park and it is difficult for them to keep an eye on the couples, which is why a banner was put up, he said.
The department, he added, is planning to put up a better-worded banner in the park, asking couples to “behave decently”, and inform security guards to keep an eye on them.
Not the first time
One of the people who raised their voice against the controversial banner was activist Meera Sanghamithra, who tweeted that the move was unconstitutional, tagging Hyderabad Mayor Vijayalaxmi Gadwal.
The GHMC subsequently said in a reply that the banner had been taken down.
Banners removed by DD UBD. Inconvenience regretted. Informed local police to keep vigil by regular visits to maintain serene atmosphere in the park . pic.twitter.com/vqNBAdX97F
— Zonal Commissioner, Secunderabad Zone, GHMC (@ZC_Secunderabad) August 26, 2021
In September 2019, the city’s Sanjeevaiah Park, known to be one of the most popular hangout spots for couples, was made a “children only” park. A banner erected at the park at the time said people aged above 14 would not be allowed in, except if they come as attendants for the children.
This is an updated version of the report
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)