If Indian Culture is under imminent threat follow these simple steps to render it invulnerable -shout obscenities, slap randomly, smash windows and time it for the TV cameras! And to share a secret, the easiest to prey upon are young couples confused between love and hormones. But beware, sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted and its even more bizarre when the weapon used is a mere “Kiss of Love”.
In end October 2014, Downtown Café in Khozikode,Kerela was vandalised and ransacked by members of the Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha (BJYM) for allegedly “facilitating immoral activities” by its young patrons. This was after Jai Hind TV telecast a programme about the alleged “immoral activities”.Interestingly the entire drama unfolded in front of the cameras and yet BJYM goons managed to evade arrest.
This incident led to the Free Thinkers group and others organizing a “kiss of love” protest against the “moral police” and its wanton and unrestrained hooliganism.Promptly a Facebook page came up and exhorted people to defy moral policing by locking lips at the Marine Drive on Kochi on the 2nd of November! Soon there was furore all over. The Shiv Sena,like all extremists painted a grim and murky picture when it bizarrely predicted that the “Kiss of Love” protests would lead to “sexual anarchy” (what does this mean) and a renewed and more virulent form of “love jihad”.The battle lines were drawn and the stage was now set for a “kiss-ectrfying” protest day.
On the anointed day, some protestors did managed to lock their lips (same sex also). Most of them though may have actually bitten each other because of the attendant chaos caused by throngs of yet-to-kiss-for-the-first-tine onlookers and i-am-jealous-of-your-girlfriend type goons of the “morchas”! Pandemonium reigned as the goons wanted to hurl the “kissers” into the sea, the “kissers” wanted to keep kissing as life had never been so good and the Police did what they are good at – baton charged, broke up the crowds, arrested the kissers and let the “morcha” hooligans go.Like always.
The fire spread to all corners of India and in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi similar protests were organized. The media focused only on the kissing and invented a “kiss counter” which did not miss out on a single “kiss” whatever be the level of chaos taking place. Inadvertent fights too broke out and the Police did what they had in Kochi.
In spite of the “kissers” endangering themselves for a seemingly just cause, opinion was largely divided on the issue of the propriety of the form of protest and it did deflect attention from the moot issue -the “heckler’s veto” which is being exercised by the “moral police” and leading to infringement of liberty and fundamental rights as well.
This Amul ad captured the dominant national controversy of the time. It shows a love struck couple sitting on a bench poised to kiss, though appearing to do it on butter draped slices. The “moral police” is depicted by a caricature holding a placard and remonstrating angrily with the couple. A camera holding caricature represents the over zealous media. The Amul Girl is shown separating the “kissers and the morchas”.
The Tag Line…Kiss Power Ya Uss Paar..is a play on the protest titled the “Kiss of Love” and a popular hindi proverb “is paar ya us paar” which urges people to make a decisive choice which in this case is either for supporting the “kiss of love” or not supporting it and bringing to fore the question of propriety of the chosen form.
The Punch Line..Lipsmakhan Taste... is a subtle play on the lips and kiss and is spin off of the English term Lipsmacking Taste, which simply implies that the Amul butter has an amazing taste.
The “Kiss of Love” protest was not a knee jerk reaction to the Downtown Café incident, but a pent up reaction to a series of instances of moral policing in Kerala. So , though, the idea of a protest received wide spread support but a call to openly kiss did not receive the same kind of acceptance. It appeared that some took it as a right for indulging in “in your face” public display of affection which irked the majority sentiment. Call it false morality or what you may, most of us are not comfortable with “lolling tongues” and drooling couples in our vicinity. Even Bollywood used embracing flowers or a raging fire to depict the “ultimate expression of love ” (or lust). In a country where Emraan Hashmi movies were considered soft porn, accepting lip locks as a form of public protest was a tad too much to accept. Most related it with their own children and disapproved of the form.
This is where the protest lost its zing and instead struggled for its own legitimacy.
It is well understood that protests need to be innovative to have an impact but the organisers got the form wrong. The focus should have been on the over reach of the “morchas” instead it became an effort towards making maximum lip locks possible with leery on lookers assembling for a free show.Women protestors being chased by hoodlums seeking “kisses of love” totally queered the pitch and the accompanying obscenities was totally avoidable.
Another aspect is that the Police never really arrested the hooligans indulging in violence at the protest venues but preemptively arrested the protestors on the pretext of maintaining public order as the yet-to-be-planted-kiss could invite an imaginary sucker punch from a real hoodlum present in the gathering. So who is a threat to public order? The real hoodlum or the hypothetical kisser?
Also while our “moral police” raves and rants about women’s hem lines and kissing in public it is conspicuously quiet about “pissing in public” .Why? Isn’t it obscene and unIndian? And while women are blamed for getting raped because of their dress where is the moral police when the need for community policing arises?
The Central Government maintained a studied silence and got blamed for soft pedaling on the issue of the “morchas” due to its own umbilical linkages with the Rashtriya Swamsewak Sangh (RSS). This will only encourage the obscurantist groups to try and apportion more and more of the social landscape and one fine day we will be like Pakistan.
“Kiss of Love” protests were an eye opener and a definitive moment when some amongst us tried to push back the tide of rising moral policing. Only that it got waylaid out of exuberance but still managed to leave a “bite” on the moral police’s hips. Vigilante groups have no sanction under law and they should be restrained at all costs. If they have a problem with a particular behavior then like all law abiding citizens they should approach the courts and not run riot.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner let’s get serious about getting the “morcha types” girlfriends as this will keep them away from smashing windows and chasing couples. Otherwise be prepared for a sucker punch heading your way and also ending up spending the night in a lock up while the “puncher” keeps counting his hits.