Of Whistling, Chewing & Other Satanic Arts

On April 28, 2011 by admin


[HUG reproduces the manifesto of The Society for the Suppression of Public Obscenity in India, an umbrella organization/lobby which sought to transform certain practices of everyday life in India in the late nineteenth century. The Society was formed in 1873. This excerpt is culled from Amrita Bazar Patrika, 8 Kartika 1280, 23 October, 1873, and has been cited in Gautam Bhadra’s 2011 book Neda Beltalaye Jaye Kawbar? ]

Proceedings of the Obscene Society

1. All obscene books be suppressed except for those which are old; such books having been written in good old times must have by wear and tear lost much of their offensiveness.

2. All Modern Obscene books be suppressed. The President Raja Kalikrishna having proposed an amendment in favour of Sanskrit Slokas, the sacred garb of which covers all grossness, the amended resolution was carried out.

3. The Agencies and branch associations be established all over the land to see that (a) people live chastely, talk chastely; (b) amorous songs, blandishing smiles, love sighs, twisting of the moustaches, whistling, blackening the teeth, chewing the betel, play on the flute, combing the hair, wearing bordered clothes, looking for young females and other such satanic arts be suppressed; (c) domesticated animals, dogs, goats, pigeons, fowls, ducks in particular, be removed to a distance from human habitations and tended by eunuchs or persons with eyes covered and ears hermetically sealed, castrated animals excepted; (d) those who do not choose to part with their cattle &c, provide them with long coats in the case of male and flowing gowns in the case of female animals, till the mating season arrives when they be removed to animal zenanas; (e) frogs, flies, mosquitoes, lizards and birds in general, except the decent crows and ravens, that call up evil thoughts, in men and women by their obscene habits be destroyed or made His Honor’s short term prisoners.

4. That such words as may possibly give rise to amorous ideas in sensitive mind be forthwith suppressed. As for example, marriage, pregnancy, delivery, kiss, embrace, sex, generations, procreation, womb, heaving breast, luscious cheek, rosy lips, languishing eyes, male, female, he , she, man, woman, wife, husband, love not to speak of a thousand more obscene ones which decency prevents us from mentioning here.

5. That the cultivation of such fruits and flowers as brinjal, bananas, pomegranate, lotus, rose &c, be strictly prohibited in as much as they suggest obscene similies.

 6. That since child bearing is a form of obscenity which is very prevalent in this country, government be requested to make some such law as to effectually put down this nasty practice. A member rose and proposed that that those who have been already guilty of giving birth to children serve penance by repentance or giving alms to Brahmins or donation to the Reform Association of India or reciting the names of the Peagumbers seven and seventy times each according to the light of his own shastras. The proposal was carried with deep sighs.

7. That as newly born babies are likely to convey obscene ideas even to the chasted mind, they be destroyed. A member reminded the society that there is a law prohibiting infanticide, whereupon it was resolved that Government be petitioned to repeal the law.

8. That men and women must not assemble together and go on pilgrimages or attend religious festivals. Exception: they might eat together or talk and amuse with one another provided they do so in good faith and are not Hindoos.

9. That dancing and use of thin clothes by females be strictly prohibited. Exceptions: Palka and quadrille dancing and other such dancings which amuse Europeans; ball dresses summer evening dresses &c.

10. That obscene publication in newspapers be prohibited. Such extracts in quasi religious newspapers as, “As extraordinary charge against a lady” (vide Indian Mirror, 3 Sept. 1873), “The first lady barrister’ (vide the same 9th Sept. 1873), “Influence of kisses’ (vide the same Oct 1, 1873), “Lady and her page’ (vide the same Oct. 9, 1873,) police cases involving rape &c, are excepted.

 11. Proposed by Baboo Keshub Chandra Sen and seconded by Dr. Smith that the society should avoid fuss of every kind, that copies of resolutions be circulated throughout India, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the United States of America, and that impressive and eloquent lectures strongly condemning obscenity in every shape be delivered in India and England by persons able and willing to do so.

(For details, refer to “The Society for the Suppression of Public Obscenity in India”, Alok Ray ed. Society in Dilemma, Nineteenth Century India, Riddhi: Calcutta, 1979; Robert Darnton “Literary Surveillance in the British Raj, Book History, 2001.)

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