Kerala’s Kiss of Love protest goes viral


Kiss of Love Community calls for similar campaigns across universities, public spaces and cultural arenas to protest against the criminal activity of moral policing and cultural fascism

By Team FI

Even as right wing protestors and the Kerala police prevented the Kiss of Love campaigners to hold their ground in Marine Drive, Kochi, the idea behind it has snowballed beyond the state’s borders and Facebook boundaries with protests happening in Hyderabad, in IIT Bombay and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkatta. A similar scene to that of Kochi took place in University of Hyderabad where the Kiss of Love supporters were set upon by the police who ignored the right wing Hindu protestors on the scene. In IIT- Bombay, the Progressive and Democratic Students collective organised a march in solidarity with the Kiss of Love campaign.

Expressing solidarity with the Kerala protesters, the students of Jadavpur University are holding a Kiss of love protest in South Kolkata today. According to a press invite, students will form a human chain and march from the university premises with protest actions like “kissing, hugging, showering affection on each other” in public

Kiss of Love protest in Kerala
Last Sunday in Kochi, Kerala, two buffaloes in blond wigs, two Muslim right wing organisations, four Hindu right wing organisations, bunches of Kerala police and a large number of men hoping for a sight of kissing couples congregated on Marine Drive, The slogan shouting protestors, the buffaloes and the lathi wielding police were present; to prevent a youth campaign called the Kiss of Love – where participants would kiss, hug each other publicly as a protest against moral policing in Kerala.

The Kiss of Love event was planned and organised by the Kiss of Love community which was set up in October this year on the social media network Facebook through the efforts of an existing group on the network called the Freethinkers. The event was to take place on Marine Drive, Kochi, Kerala where the participants would express their love by kissing their partner or friend, to protest against ‘cultural fascism and moral policing’.

Moral policing in Kerala
The Facebook campaign came as a reaction to the various incidents of moral policing in the state of Kerala, which has the unique claim of being nearly hundred percent literate. In 2011, a 26-year-old youth was killed by a mob in a village in Kozhikode district for allegedly having an affair with a married woman. In the same year, a young software techie and her male friend were attacked by a group of goons while standing near a tea shop in Kochi. An event that caused much discussion in social media earlier this year, in June, was the case of a theatre artist and her male friend who were accosted by the police and held at the police station for the crime of travelling together on a motorcycle late at night.

In October, 2014, a Malayalam TV Channel, JaiHind TV, reported on Downtown Café in Kozhikode, pronouncing the café’s parking space as a ground of immoral activity. The footage showed a young couple who kissed and hugged each other. Following this, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha – the BJP youth wing, trounced the café, broke glass and the furniture. Filming the vandalism were television cameras (including that of JaiHind Tv who has at its helm, chief of the Kerala Congress V M Sudheeran) who were already on the spot, as per the police.

The Kiss of Love campaign was to protest such moral policing, which, as they stated (and corroborated by police circular put up on the Kiss of Love facebook page), is illegal and constitute a criminal activity. The campaign snowballed on Facebook and a huge media response was generated before the event itself.
On the day of the event, even as the members arrived on the scene of the protest,

Hindu and Muslim right wing organisations found common ground in defending their love for ‘cultural values’. Amongst those present were the Shiva Sena who turned out in huge numbers saying that the event was against Indian culture, would create ‘sexual anarchy’ and that it was a conspiracy of ‘love Jihad’.

Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists unite
The Hindu protestors included the usual suspects or defenders of Hindu culture – the ABVP, Bharatiya Yuva Morcha, the Bajrang Dal while the Muslim voices were that of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and Sunni Yuva Jana Sangham.

The Kiss of Love participants could barely manage to hold ground for some time and raise slogans before the violence began. The Kerala police decided to take in about 50 odd members in “preventive custody” while the Hindu and Muslim right wing organisations ran amok. There were also on the scene two buffaloes with blond wigs, which apparently represented western culture and immoral activities (brought by SDPI) but the police ignored them as well as the violent protestors or rather defenders of Indian culture.

The members of the Kiss of Love community managed to a few behind-the-bars kisses in the police van before they were whisked away. While some press reports have termed the event a failure, it has not failed to elicit sympathetic responses from students from across the country.

Facebook’s response
Both the Kiss of Love community and the Freethinkers Group on Facebook had their pages taken down by the Facebook administration because of mass reporting against it. As per Facebook admin, the Freethinkers Group was taken down because it violated certain community standards. The resurgent Group however continues its presence on the social media network.

The Kiss of Love Community put forward a press release stating the event to be successful, and expressing their gratitude to various sections of society that helped and supported them in the “movement against the fundamentalist and reactionary elements of this country who indulge in moral policing, which has been a major hindrance to peaceful living and individual freedom in India.”

The press release emphasized that the Kiss of Love community is not an organisation but a campaign which was joined by people from all walks of life and ideologies. “We are a group of people who respect the Indian Constitution and we only want to protest against injustices by being a part of the same Constitution, reads the press release. Wishing to decentralize its campaign, the Community has called for, “…the millennial generation to come forward and takeover our ideas and spread it in our Universities, cities, public spaces and in the cultural arena and make a difference.”

Featured photo by Mithun Vinod

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