An apparent incident of moral policing, in which young men allegedly tried to harass college girls wearing hijab for posing for photos with their male classmates has now ended with the police registering a case against the ‘guardians of cultural values’.
The incident took place over in Kilinakode village in Malappuram, a conservative district in Central Kerala where Muslims make up the vast majority of the population.
16 students of the PSMO College in Thirurangadi, including four boys, were attending their classmate’s wedding in Kilinakode.
The girls were waiting for a bus when local youth, concerned about the ‘break down of cultural values’, allegedly asked them ‘not to wander around’ and ‘go straight to their homes’ and made disparaging comments about their character.
One of the girls in the group subsequently said that their decision to take ‘groupies’ with their male classmates on stage seemed to have irked the locals.
Malappuram district tends to observe strict segregation of the sexes, with males and females sitting in separate halls for wedding feasts.
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The incident would have been just another case of ‘moral policing’, except this time, the girls decided to make a lighthearted video about their tormentors.
As they were walking away from the moral brigade, they did a live video on Facebook in which they mocked the gang for still living in the dark ages.
“We are in a place called Kilinakkode. We came to attend a wedding… We’ve never seen such a pathetic place, a place where the sun is yet to rise, a place with so many culture-less fellows,” one of the girls poured out her ridicule in the video, even as her female friends chipped in with adjectives like “12 century mentality” and “extreme deprivation”.
“People who come this way should definitely carry an emergency lamp, because this place needs some light very urgently,” she added, even as others in the group jokingly warned girls from getting married to guys in the village.
Even though it was meant for the their friends in the same class, the video went viral on social media, leading to a counter reaction. Responding to the video, some of the ‘local youth’ decided to ‘restore the honor’ of their village. In a counter video, the young men accused the girls of ‘traumatizing’ them with their behavior, and suggested that those who came to attend weddings should simply ‘chow it down’ and leave.
They denied that they had harassed the students and their intention was only to stop ‘activities against culture’.
“They couldn’t do what they wanted here. We didn’t let them. That’s what Kilinakode is about,” they said in their video. They also protested the girls’ attempt to shame Kilinakode, a land, which they said was “the provider of nourishment to many”.
Meanwhile, the girls garnered support from most users on social media, with the ‘Republic of Kilinakode’ becoming a topic of discussion almost overnight.
At least one of the girls subsequently reacted to the controversy, deploring the what she called attempts from some corners to malign the girls’ reputations and “destroy their lives” through fake videos and commentary.
She also said that one of the youth in the moral brigade had taken their video as they were waiting for their bus, threatening to “expose” them.
A case has now been registered against the youth under IPC sections relating to unlawful assembly, rioting and criminal intimidation.