Kerala 'Kiss of Love' Ends in Chaos, Participants Taken Into Preventive Custody

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Kochi:  The controversial "Kiss of love" event - a protest against moral policing in the state - got scuttled even before it began in Kochi's Marine Drive this afternoon. Chaos reigned at the site as the police carted away around 50 of the organisers and supporters - amid cheers and slogan-shouting by the saffron groups who were protesting against the protest.

The police said they were taking the organisers in "preventive custody" since the situation was volatile. The organisers - Free Thinkers, a group of Facebook users - were pushing ahead with the programme despite the lack of police approval.(Read: Kerala: 'Kiss of Love' Protest Will Happen Tomorrow, Insist Organisers)

The organisers had asked couples to assemble at Kochi's Ernakulam Law College in Kochi at 5 pm today. They were then to proceed to the main venue - the Marine drive grounds - and express their love for each other by kissing, holding hands or in any other way.

The event had generated a lot of political heat, with the Bajrang Dal - practically unheard of in the state before - and the Kerala Students Union, being up in arms against it. The Youth Congress and Students Federation of India were supporting the campaign. (Read: Kerala's 'Kiss of Love' Protest, Planned for Sunday, Draws Opposition)

But the publicity pushed up the footfall. Where the organisers were expecting a few hundreds, thousands started assembling since noon. The Bajrang Dal, the Kerala Students Union and a Muslim outfit, meanwhile, took out a counter-march.

A strong police contingent was posted at the Marine Drive Grounds and as the "Kiss of Love" participants approached, holding placards and raising slogans, they were promptly bundled off to a waiting police van.

Amid the chaos and sloganeering, NDTV caught up with two girls who had sneaked out of home to express solidarity with the movement. "This is such a masculine space. Forget about expressing love, we can't express ourselves mostly," said one of them.(Read: 'Kiss of Love' Campaigners Oblige Kerala TV Channel With Preview)

But the majority, including Sidharth and Ramaman - both in their early twenties - thought the movement was a shame to Indian culture. "We just came here out of curiosity," they insisted.

The "Kiss of Love" gained momentum as a Facebook protest after a coffee shop in Kozhikode was vandalised last week, allegedly by members of a youth wing affiliated to the BJP. They claimed the cafe was used by young students for dates.

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