Why I started the Kiss of Love Movement

Published: January 23, 2015 13:11 IST
(Rahul Pasupalan, 28, was a software engineer till six months ago. He is now working on a film script.)

The Kiss of Love protest against moral policing, initiated in Kerala in October 2014, has gone viral, with protests being organized by common students and citizens across the country.  

We started the Kiss of Love in Kerala because it defies moral policing and all sorts of attacks on democratic rights, and it celebrates the right, not just of individuals to kiss, but of communities to defy hate and embrace each other, of women and all people to freely decide who to love and marry, and of all citizens to resist 'fatwas' of the kind issued by the Taliban, khaps or RSS alike.

Let us remember that the Taliban found it obscene/immoral for Malala to go to school. The khaps find it obscene for girls to have mobile phones. The ABVP finds love itself obscene, and therefore protests against Valentine's Day. The followers of the same extreme right-wing thoughts attacked the restaurant "Down Town" in Kozhikode, because they believed young people spending time there were being immoral.

There is a majority who still believe Kiss of Love is a movement to get the freedom to kiss in public. Subramanya Bharati, the great freedom fighter and Tamil poet, used to hold hands with his wife on the streets in their village. In the late 19th and early 20th century, this was considered scandalous and obscene. The reason why we choose a kiss as the mode of protest  - it was a simple answer to the fascists who attacked a restaurant just because a couple kissed there. The answer was "We will kiss even on the road  -if  my partner and I are willing, who the hell are you to bother?"

We need to learn - and teach - the culture of respecting the privacy of couples even on streets and parks. Couples kissing each other aren't anyone's business. Children, too, aren't corrupted by seeing adults kiss. They are corrupted by watching dads beat up mothers, by silently suffering sex abuse, by a culture that teaches them that women should be controlled by men. When kiss is prohibited, kissing should be the mode of protest

The obscenity law (Section 292) in India is a product of the British colonial period, where the rulers were guided by Victorian morality.  The "Victorian morality " is the same thing that asked for a table's legs to be covered with cloth so as not to remind people of women's legs. But the same Victorian period was notorious for the proliferation of sex trafficking of women and children. Historian Charu Gupta talks of  how the British translators of the Rig Veda and Jayadeva's Gita Govinda left out certain portions that they found obscene!

The right-wing has to understand so-called "culture" is not static, it's something which keeps changing according to the financial and social lifestyle of society. Next time before you start talking about "Indian Culture", please spend a few minutes reviewing history. Some historians claims that the lip-to-lip kiss originated in India, and that too in the Mahabharata.

When we think about the political dimensions of the protest - the timing of a movement really matters, a right -wing political party with all hidden agendas of fascism has come to power and started work towards the ultimate aim of "a Hindu Nation". Religion is been highlighted as nationality. They talk of building a  temple for Godse , they have started "Ghar vapasi" .In the backdrop of such extremism, movements like Kiss of Love should be read as a  fight for the survival of a secular democratic India.

The worst part is that  right-wing goons actually indulged in sexual harassment with protesters at the Kiss of Love event. They taunted them, demanding kisses and sex, and branding the women there as "sluts". They asked male protesters to 'send your sisters to kiss us'. They don't get it, do they? Women who kiss a person of their choice are not 'public property' to kiss-right wing men on demand! And 'sisters' are not the property of brothers, to be 'handed over' to other men.

Let us create and defend an India where the values enshrined in India's Constitution - of the rights of individuals to live and love as they please without the interference of any mob sentiment or diktats - can be celebrated and respected.

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