It seems to be a strange day and era, right? One where young adults, and quite a few adults as well, are clamouring for the right to hold the hand, and in some extreme cases, kiss their counterparts in public. Appalling, is it not? Agreed.
It is simply harrowing that in the 21st century, amidst the supposed milestones we, as a country have achieved; we still have not achieved true freedom. We have not achieved the freedom to live without having the “morals” of the preponderance imposed upon us. We do not even have the freedom to choose to hold the hand of our beloved for it is “obscene”, “immoral”, “against Indian culture”, and “indecent”. The democratic ideal our land is built upon is flourishing, I see.
Let me elucidate the reason for my aghast.
The Kiss of Love Campaign is a campaign started in protest of moral policing in the state of Kerala. After the demonstration in Kochi, the movement has rapidly spread to other parts of the country. Now, the term “moral policing”, I am certain, is not foreign to us. The “moral police” are nothing but vigilante groups who go around and attempt to enforce the “code of morality” in India. There have been enough cases reported to support my claim. Anything that does not adhere to this “code of morality”, be it art, clothing, books, films, even beauty salons, which, by the inferential capacity of these vigilante, who protect us from the clutches of the western cultures, is protested against. The ambiguity of Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with “public decency and morals”, is twisted and used indiscriminately to justify these protests.
Do not get me wrong. Everyone has the constitutional right to protest peacefully. However, as I faintly recall, these vigilante groups have a particular proclivity for violence. They often harass men and women who are seen in socialising in public with acquaintances of the opposite sex. They physically attack them even. Remember the attack on a group of women in Mangalore by an orthodox group that led to the launching of the Pink Chaddi Campaign? They were attacked because the women were at a pub. Remember the Imphal Bombing in 2009 that led to the deaths of seventeen innocent people? Seventeen people lost their lives because “gambling affects Manipuri culture adversely”. Remember the Delhi girl who was brutally gang raped in a moving bus, and died later due to her injuries? Her rapists justified their actions by stating that they raped her simply because she was with a male friend and she had to be taught a lesson. See? Violence.
Makes us really step back and question the functioning of these groups, doesn’t it?
Now, if we look at another aspect of this issue, the question of what exactly these morals are arises. Who decides these morals? Is it not as subjective as is right and wrong? Do we not use our own frame of reference, which is unique to all individuals, to determine what is right and what is wrong; similarly, what is moral and what is immoral? Why then, must self appointed crusader groups attack, verbally and physically, often leading to injuries both mental and physical, other individuals residing in an allegedly democratic, and thereby, free society? Why must these morals, in whose formulation we or our elected representatives were not present, be imposed on us? Have we not the right to live as we please, whilst we are not breaking the laws of the land that was formulated by a drafting committee and accepted by all Indians?
I remember an incident a teacher of mine reported to us in class when we were back in school. She told us that an auto rickshaw driver, while taking her to her destination, lectured her sternly about the preservation of Indian culture and the need for her to wear a bindi. Moral policing? Yes.
I must point out here that men are not the only ones involved in moral policing. Women are equally guilty.
It might seem like a small incident, but in retrospection, it really is not. If women are not allowed to dress as they please, then I do not see the point of having a constitution that provides us with the fundamental Right to Life. The college dress codes violate fundamental rights too.
It is this exact evil that the Kiss of Love protest aims to fight against. However, what I have, to my utter dismay, noticed is that most of the critics of this protest are caught up in the form of their protest- kissing. They do not look past the way of protest adopted by these individuals to understand why the protest is taking place. They completely over look the issue of moral policing.
This raises the last question of this article. Why is it that kissing or hugging or merely holding hands in public frowned upon by us? Why do we cringe at the sight of a couple expressing love for their partner while we, almost without a second thought, accept people who smoke in public areas? Why do we find holding hands more concerning than dying due to the passive smoke the inconsiderate smokers feed us with? Hugging a person in our beautiful country is considered to be scarring for children while accidently catching sight of someone urinating in public is not. Why does a small display of affection in public irritate us so much? Why are the nastiest things being said about the protesters by their critics? Questions are being raised regarding the personalities of the protesters. A caustic and scathing attack is being made on them. Why? Why are we so intolerant towards a view different from ours that we find the need to become antipathetic?
It really makes me wonder.
Therefore, I beg for you to pause for a few moments and wonder too. If you have understood both sides of the argument on the issue of moral policing and choose the other side, by all means, please do. You have a right to have your opinion and no one can deny that.
All we are asking for is you to give us a chance to bring forth our view.
All we are agitating for is the freedom from morals which are imposed upon us.
All we are asking for is the right granted by the founders of our nation.
All we want is the power of self-determination, free from the vestiges of cultural fascism, and all other deterrents.
All we demand is the liberty to travel via public transport without being bullied for not wearing a bindi.
Image Courtesy – Kiss of Love