Police officers in Uttar Pradesh have all the more reason to twirl their lustrous mustachios.
Authorities in the Provincial Armed Constabulary in the state have increased the 'reward' it gave to police officers with robust moustaches - from Rs 50 to Rs 250, Hindustan Times reported.
According to a senior official, the moustache reward is being revived for 33 PAC battalions after some police officers with big mustaches were seen patrolling Kumbh.
The report quoted other officials as saying that though keeping a moustache was a matter of personal choice, the fact remained that moustaches added a certain degree of personality to the cops.
He also noted that the trend, which had earlier been popular, had been in decline in recent years. However, now it seems that cops are again taking to it. And the 5-times increased cash reward may be an even better incentive.
Not just facial hair
The humble moustache is not just a patch of facial hair. To most Indians, the moustache can represent many things including privilege, class, caste pride, masculinity, and virility.
A lustrous moustache is seen by many as a sign upper caste pride. In October 2017, a 24-year-old Dalit youth , Krunal Maheria, was beaten up by local Rajput men in a village near Gandhinagar in Gujarat for wearing moustaches.
According to reports, the perpetrators had told the victims that they could not become Rajput (upper caste) by growing moustaches like them.
A similar incident had been reported from the same area in the span of a week when a teenager complained he was stabbed by upper caste attackers for keeping a moustache. However, Gandhinagar Police dismissed is as a case of staged publicity.
The attacks triggered a social media campaign where Dalit men posted images with moustaches in opposition to upper caste privilege.
In another incident in 2018, again in Gujarat, an OBC man, Ranjit Thakor, was made to shave off his moustache after he added the suffix 'Sinh' to his last name.
In UP too, the moustache became an issue when chairperson of Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board Waseem Razvi said last year that Muslim who only keep a beard but not an accompanying moustache were 'fundamentalists'.
Shaving off a moustache is also a sign of protest in some cases. For example, RSS supporter Rajesh Kurup shaved off half his mustache and put photos on social media at the zenith of the Sabarimala protests last year. Before that, Kurup had gone viral for posting photos from a fake photoshoot where he was seen holding an idol of Lord Ayappa and allegedly being intimated by cops.
The moustache has also taken people to the court in India. In 2008, an Indian Airlines flight attendant, Victor De, had won a case against his employers in Calcutta High Court as he had refused to shave off his moustache. According to airline authorities, the De's huge moustache intimidated guests and could even pose a health hazard as he was also involved in serving food. However, the court ruled in favour of Dey, who claimed in court that the moustache was who he was.
In 2017, the Telenagana CM K Chandrashekhar Rao also made an offering of a pure gold moustache at the Kuravi Veerabhadra Swamy temple in the state's Mahabubabad district. KCR, who has a reputation for being 'superstitious', allegedly spent Rs 60, 000 on the precious stache.
Moustaches are also tied in with the concept of macho masculinity and bravado in India. In fact, not just UP, in 2004 police officers in Madhya Pradesh were also given an additional Rs 30 pay for growing a mustache.
Annual Moustache competitions in which men compete to win the title of the longest beard, thickest beard and other related titles, take place in Rajasthan. Films and pop-culture often capture the bravado of men through their moustaches. Think Mangal Pandey, Singham and Dabangg.