Kolkata: After a young couple was harassed on the Kolkata Metro for allegedly "standing too close", the youth of the city today registered their protest against the moral policing by offering free hugs to people outside the Tollygunge Metro station. They sang songs, showered smiles and hugged strangers to spread the message of love -- "All we need is love, love is all we need".
"Hugging is a sign of affection. It isn't vulgar," a protester, who was strumming the guitar, said.
Another youngster said, "I am here because I strongly believe in love. Seeing others support and promote love is giving me strength. This is the Kolkata I grew up and want to live in. If I meet those attackers, I will give them a heartfelt hug and tell them not to be so angry."
Then there were others who said what happened on the train that evening was a "breach of freedom". "Why is affection not normal to normal people? We want to send out the message that affection is all right. It shoudn't be denormalised," said a young hugger.
"It is an expression of love and what happened has sent out a wrong message by the society. Those who attacked the couple need counselling," added another.
A middle-aged man who exited the station condemned the thrashing and said even if some people were not comfortable with the couple's conduct, they shouldn't have taken law into their own hands.
A young man his friend had boarded the train around 10 pm on Monday. A senior citizen bumped into them inside the crowded coach and an argument ensued. The couple was pushed off the train and thrashed by a mob, including elderly passengers, for their alleged public display of affection (PDA). "Get a room" and "go to a club" was shouted at the couple.
Visuals of the incident that emerged later showed the woman shielding her friend as a group of men rained kicks and punches on the duo. Even the woman wasn't spared.
Witnesses say some passengers from another coach cut in and dragged the two to safety.
No complaint has been filed so far with the Metro or the police. As the coaches didn't have CCTV cameras, there was no footage of what had actually happened inside the coach after the couple boarded the train at the Chandi Chowk station, Metro Railway General Manager (GM) Ajay Vijayvargiya told reporters today.
"It came to the Metro's notice only when a news report came out in a Bengali daily yesterday. We thoroughly checked the CCTV footage at Dumdum and found no clear evidence of any assault. The footage and the initial findings of the Railway Police Force (RPF) were shared with the Kolkata Police," Mr Vijayvargiya said.
He said there would be increased surveillance across the Metro stations, every part of the platform would be monitored with the help of CCTV cameras and an RPF special squad, with one woman member, would be deployed at every station.
He also urged commuters to behave in a manner that doesn't tarnish the image of the city of joy.