In the Cross-Fire of Morality and Caste
Kalpana Sharma
Bans & Bar Girls: Performing Caste in Mumbai’s Dance Bars by Sameena Dalwai Women Unlimited, 2019, 242 pp., Rs. 595
February 2020, volume 44, No 2-3

When globalization, dominant morality and caste clash, it is women who get trampled. Nowhere was this more evident than in the controversy that arose over so-called ‘dance bars’ in Mumbai in the new millennium. These were bars where men drank, and women performed traditional and Bollywood-inspired dances for their pleasure.

In 2005, responding to protests against such bars by groups who claimed they were a corrupting influence and immoral, the Maharashtra Government amended the Bombay Police Act, under which such places are licensed, and banned this type of dancing in bars. As a result, an estimated 75,000 women lost their primary source of income and another 2,00,000 people associated with these establishments were also put out of work.

The controversy around this issue stretched out over more than a decade. But what was never fully appreciated was either the consequences of such a ban on the women who danced in the bars, or the caste angle that undergirded both the existence of dance bars and their eventual closure.

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