In a gross violation of privacy, a public park in Coimbatore is demanding marriage certificates of people who wish to enter its premises. In a shocking report that emerged on Saturday, M Kannan, a professor at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University to which the park is attached is quoted as saying, “Fed-up with the couples using the park as their hiding and recreation area, the university has come up with this rule. We initially tried to put up rules and regulations such as seeking their ID proofs and asking details such as phone numbers. Despite all that, couples continued to behave inappropriately causing a lot of discomfort to other visitors. Students and families have also complained many times.”
However, when TNM contacted the Public Relations Officer, he refused to comment on the issue until Monday. Upon visiting the park, TNM found that the sign board near the entrance prominently mentions that all visitors are ‘requested to’ enter their name, address and phone number in the entry register. The board also ‘requests visitors to ‘maintain their dignity’ at the park, failing which ‘severe action’ could be taken.
One staff member at the park said, “Only families are allowed. School and college (students are) allowed. Only those who are married can come. If they come alone, we don’t send them, whether it is boys or girls.” Another staff member went so far as to suggest only those with the holy knot or thaali can enter the premises.
While the authorities seem to be covertly referring to public displays of affection by couples, masking it with words like ‘dignity’ and ‘nuisance’ is hardly going to put an end to the problem, especially not at the cost of personal and constitutional freedoms.
The Tamil Nadu Parks, Play-Fields and Open Spaces (Preservation and Regulation) Act, 1959 describes a park as “a place For the resort or the public for recreation, air or light.” However, the authorities seem to be taking issue with the recreation aspect of this definition.
Speaking to TNM, Prabhu, who had hoped to visit the park said, “We came here with friends to study. But according to the rules, we were not allowed inside. When we questioned this, the authorities said you are all lovers! They have decided without even asking.” Lamenting the lack of recreational spaces, Prabhu says, “In Coimbatore, there are not that many places we can go to for entertainment. If they take this away to based on unfounded suspicions, this is very bad. Today, it is lovers. Tomorrow it will be for a religion or a caste. This is bad for a democracy.
(Inputs from Sudhakar)