Tag Archive for moral policing in Kerala

Kerala’s Kiss of Love protest goes viral

Kiss-of-love-protest-kerala

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

Artists and activists protest moral policing by Kerala police

moral- policing- in -kerala

Volunteers of VIBGYOR international film festival arrested by Thrissur police and beaten up for the ‘crime’ of awaiting transport after attending a music concert while Hindutva activists who violently disrupted a screening of a film on Kashmir go scot-free

By Team FI
Several artists, civil rights activists and feminists in Kerala have come forward condemning the brutal police attack on five volunteers of the annual VIBGYOR International Film Festival, held in Thrissur last week.

The five VIBGYOR volunteers, one woman and four men were picked up by a police team headed by Sub Inspector Lal Kumar of the Thrissur East police station when they were waiting for auto rickshaws after attending a music concert. The volunteers were not only detained at the Thrissur East police station but also physically attacked. According to activists, the young woman, who is a cinematographer was attacked by the male police and subjected to sexual verbal abuse.

A woman lawyer, Asha, who went to the police station with her son and minor daughter after the young woman cinematographer sought legal help on phone, was also beaten up by the police. Asha, her daughter and the young woman has been hospitalized, according to sources

The four young men are still in police custody. Activists allege that Sub Inspector Lal Kumar, is in hands with the right wing political forces and did nothing when RSS activists tried to stop the screening of a film on Kashmir. In fact the RSS activists who tore the posters of the film and threatened the organisers of VIBGYOR were allowed to walk free whereas the volunteers were arrested for standing on the road while they waited for transport. The same police led by Lal Kumar had earlier tried to stop artists from performing the localised version of Eve Einsler’s Vagina Monologues, stating that its content was immoral.

There is an alarming increase in the number of incidents of moral policing by both police forces and right wing political parties in Kerala, a state that once known as the most progressive states in India.

Kerala Police aid family to imprison adult daughter at home

moral-policing-kerala

Kerala, considered to be one of the most progressive states in India, saw its own version of a Khap panchayat – the rural police – who objected to the love affair of two consenting adults

Team FI

On 4th February, 2014, Aparna, a 24 year old Malayalee nurse, was threatened by the Kerala police at the Perumbavur (an hour away from Ernakulam) police station that she would be arrested for immoral acts. The threat was made when she appealed to them for protection from her family because she had been locked and beaten up for wanting to marry the man she chose.

Despite her screams for help, Aparna was dragged from the police station by her uncle, businessman Ranjan T, and her mother with the help of the police and shut up again in her house. For a week before that she had been kept prisoner at another uncle’s – Vasanta Kumar house in Malappuram district.

The trouble started when Aparna introduced Samar to her family. Aparna and Samar were not intending on marriage right away. They were merely introducing each other to their respective families. The objection to Samar was that he is only half a Malayalee Nair – what Aparna’s ‘uncle’ Vasanth Kumar (who claims to be a BJP leader) termed as a Mixed Hindu. Besides this, the accusation was that he is a divorcee, that he is 11 years older and that the astrological charts do not match.

On the 29th January, Aparna was told that her mother was near death, weeping and saying all she wanted was for her daughter to come and see her once, and she could go back. When she reached Perumbavur, from Bangalore where she worked at a clinic, she was immediately locked up in the house with the doors and windows shut so that no one could hear her scream.

The next morning she was taken to Manjeri, Malapuram, to her uncle Vasanta Kumar’s house. Threats against Samar were made, that if he comes to Kerala Vasanta Kumar would make sure the Ezhava community was goaded on caste lines to attack the young man. He also claimed he had the support of the BJP. Aparna managed to send a desperate text message to Samar to save her, and to get legal help.

Accordingly, Samar filed a habeas corpus writ in the Kerala High Court, and the court directed the police in Manjeri and Perumbavur to record the girl’s statement, independently, in private. Samar went to the Manjeri police station with his father, since he was told by his advocate Kaleeshwaram Raj, that if the girl wanted to walk out with him, she could, as an adult and no one could stop her. However, the law was not upheld.

In Manjeri, the SHO Nazar C K, at first denied any knowledge of Aparna’s uncle; he would have to consult the cyber cell. When Gouri, a local activist called the local BJP office, she found out immediately who he was. Samar then approached the Circle Inspector (CI) Krishnadas, who promised to record Aparna’s statement. Anweshi’s K Ajitha also spoke with the CI. When Krishnadas asked SHO Nazar to contact Aparna, he reported that the house was locked and the family had for Ooty. The CI called a family friend Yusuf, and said they would have to produce the girl. They agreed to bring her to the police station the next afternoon.

Aparna, whose phone had been confiscated, and the sim card removed (this was, she was informed by her family, so that the cyber cell could safely not be able to find her), was given back the phone. She was told they would agree to let her marry if she agreed to stay at home for 6 months and not testify against her family. Aparna and Samar suspected the idea was to break her spirit, and either get her married, or and whisk her away to Qatar where Yusuf claimed to have a job lined up for her. She was also told that the police had been adequately persuaded to support the family and that if she did not cooperate, false cases would be filed against Samar, and he would also be seriously injured.

The family wanted Aparna to file a rape case against Samar so that the police could arrest him which Aparna promptly refused. When Aparna was produced at the Manjeri police station, the SHO Nazar told her that if she said she was being held against her will, they would have to arrest her family – did she want to do that? Be careful what you say, he said, be a good daughter – go with your family. They then took her to a local magistrate who ‘handed over custody’ of the 24-year-old -woman to her mother on the basis that she might run away before they could present her in court. When Samar – who was not allowed by the police to speak with Aparna – tried to point out that she could leave with him if she wanted and that CI Krishnadas had agreed with it too, the SHO threatened and shouted at him to get out of there or else.

Two days later, the scene was to be repeated in Perumbavur. Except that this time Aparna rebelled. Meanwhile her phone mysteriously blocked all numbers except Samar’s. Everything they spoke was somehow known to her family. Samar’s smartphone suddenly lost all recordings of conversations that he had with Aparna and her family, including testimonies he had recorded. Samar’s family started getting missed calls from blank numbers. Yusuf and the family crowed that the Kerala police cyber cell was on their side.

In Perumbavur, Aparna told the local SHO K P Sreedharan to record that she was being kept prisoner, that she wanted police protection; that she did not want to go back. Sreedharan refused. He watched as her uncle Ranjan T, physically threatened her and dragged the screaming woman back home. When she said she would speak out before the judge on the 6th of February in the High Court, the SHO also told her she need not be produced, that she would not get the chance. Aparna hired a lawyer, Anila George, on the phone to represent her, from her illegal prison at home. Her family informed her that since it was now war, they were mobilising local people and that Samar would lose his life after the court date is over. They indicated that the judgment was already in their favour.

On 6th February, the case was called in the court but the family did not produce Aparna. The local police supported the woman’s family and disposed to the court that Samar is a divorcee and hence cannot be trusted. Therefore the family wishes to protect their daughter. However the judge ordered that Aparna must be produced at the court and the next hearing was scheduled for 13th February.

Experts from the letter sent by Samar’s mother to FeministsIndia e-group