In 2011, a 26-year-old youth was killed by a mob in Kodiyathur, Kerala, for allegedly having an affair with a married woman. All of the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment in October 2014.
In June 2011, an IT professional, on her way to work at Kochi's IT park, was accosted by a group of drunken men because she was riding pillion on a male colleague's bike. The drunken men argued with her, and then abused and slapped her.
In April 2013, an artist from Kochi was harassed by two policewomen when she went for a stroll on Marine Drive with a male friend.
In July 2013, police arrested a couple from a beach in Alappuzha for suspected “immoral activity” as the woman was not wearing any accessories to suggest that she was married.
In June 2014, a female theatre artiste and her male colleague were detained in police custody for travelling together at night, which stirred protests against moral policing on social media.
October 2014, Jai Hind TV, a Malayalam news channel owned by the Indian National Congress, telecast an exclusive report on alleged immoral activity at the parking space of Downtown Cafe in Kozhikode. The video showed a young couple kissing and hugging each other. A mob of attackers, who were later identified as belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, vandalized the cafe following the report.
Just then, Rahul Pasupalan, an aspiring film maker from Kerala, started a facebook page named ‘Kiss of Love’ asking the youth of Kerala to participate in protest against moral policing on November 2, 2014, at Marine Drive, Cochin.
The page generated a huge buzz with over 150,000 likes and the protests spread across the other major cities of the country; New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai. After a few kisses and cosy hugs at the debut place, the political and cultural parties seeped in protesting against the protest with number of arrests summing up to 50 and double the number being charged.
So, what exactly is ‘Kiss of Love’? In layman’s terms, it is a section of people of a particular humanity gathering at a particular place and protesting against ‘moral policing’ by means of kissing, hugging and holding hands.
And what exactly is ‘moral policing’? It is a section of people of the same humanity ‘protesting’ in their own ways against ‘obscene’ acts such as kissing, hugging and holding hands between two individuals of opposite sex who in fact, kiss, hug or hold hands, consensually.
In general, whenever this debate of ‘Kiss of Love’ is initiated, the people in support of it claim that why do people have a problem with two individuals who, in pure lust and pure agreement, indulge in an act of touching each other in a way that is still a taboo in our country while the same people have no problems with an individual sticking out his private organ in public and, in pure pleasure and pure hurry, pollutes a region of 0.5m radius and his germs fly in a 0.5km radius. Logical, right? But, how does one put kissing and pissing on a same page?
Again, in general, whenever this debate of ‘Kiss of Love’ is initiated, the people against it claim that how can two individuals who, in pure lust and pure agreement, indulge in an act of touching each other in a way that is still a taboo in our country? This act is completely ‘obscene’ when carried out in public, an act totally against our culture. Logical, right? But, why then place a wicked smile on your face while ‘praising’ the marvellous and curvaceous carvings of the Khajuraho temple?
So, how does one decide is this campaign is essentially, good or bad? In fact, during this recent wave of submissions and presentations in my college, a dear friend went onto term ‘Kiss of Love’ an ethical issue and presented a whole case study on the topic in front of a class of ‘wannabe’ engineers who, even though just for an hour, had to come out of their shell of machines and mechanisms to face what the average youth is facing in this country! Such is the beauty of this debate!
On one hand, one may support this campaign because yes, at least on paper, we are a free country with ‘Right to Freedom of Expression’ finding a place among our basic rights and so, Public Display of Affection does not violate any laws and cannot be termed obscene. Remind you that the Supreme Court of India does not consider kissing and hugging in public, consensually, as ‘obscene’.
On the other hand, when we look beyond this paper, given the maturity of our performers and our audiences, is it possible to draw a line somewhere? Is India really ready to show PDA?
On the uglier side, the ‘youth’ that supports this campaign is so laid back that most do not care to research about the issue and in order to increase their ‘coolness quotient’ on the social media; like, share and comment on anything that seems to be a rage these days. Same goes for the section against the campaign, our very own ‘torch bearers’ of the classic Indian culture, who leave no stone unturned to light sparks of religion and politics with their torches.
So, just like every other ethical issue, the goodness or badness of ‘Kiss of Love’ remains extremely subjective with opinions varying from section to section and an almost impossible conclusion, as for me, my heart goes out to that poor policeman who, irrespective of the goodness or the badness, needs to drive out both, the protestors and the protesting against the protestors.