Liberals and conservatives faced off each other at the Marine Drive walkway at Kochi in Kerala over whether two people have the right to kiss each other in public.
Things got violent at an event called Kiss of Love which was organized via Facebook after BJP’s student wing ransacked a restaurant alleging that a couple were found kissing in the parking lot.
Hundreds of Kiss of Love volunteers were arrested by the police after they tried to stage their protest against moral policing by conservative organizatiions. The police used pepper spray and lathi charge to disperse crowds from Marine Drive.
Instead of getting together at the Marine Drive sea front, the volunteers had got together in front of the Government Law College.
A splinter group of around 150 anti-moral-police protesters broke the police cordon and entered the Marine Drive area and kissed each other publicly.
Photographers even caught a protesting couple kissing inside the police van, which was promptly used by the protesters on their Facebook page.
In a Facebook update, liberal intellectual BRP Bhaskar said the Kiss of Love activists had succeeded in putting Kerala “back on the track of renaissance by overcoming Hindu-Muslim right-wing groups.”
Kiss of Love claimed that their right to hold a democratic protest was sought to be scuttled by the police which arrested them. The police, it is reported, was worried about the safety of just a few hundred Kiss of Love activists including girls, who were against a charged group of Muslim, Hindu and Congress’ students’ union activists.
However, the ‘kissers’ said the police arrested the wrong group, even as anti-kissers celebrated the scuttling of the event.
The Kiss of Love event has enjoyed massive support among liberals and intellectuals. The media, dominated by liberals, has given the event ample coverage, which added to the social media mobilization. In many ways, the protest has started out largely like the anti-graft protests took hold four years ago in Delhi.
The ‘pro-culture’ group said Indian culture had been protected from infringement. A poster, which was widely circulated in Hindu culture groups, congratulated Muslim activists for “protecting India’s cultural values.”
To prevent police from tracking their plans, the Kiss of Love activists used WhatsApp to organize themselves. A Facebook group called Freethinkers, which has links to the Kerala Rationalists’ Association, played a part in mobilizing support.
The official Kiss of Love page, got around 3,500 new ‘likes’ in the 2.5 hours since the live coverage of the event started at 4:30 pm.
While a large-scale war could be avoided, TV showed isolated incidents of protesters fighting saffron activists.
Police detained anyone who looked like a ‘potential protester’ from reaching the venue.
Meanwhile, the original protest venue, Marine Drive, had been completely taken over by Muslim and Hindu right wing groups, who held flag marches at the venue to ensure that no physical intimacy will be allowed there.
“We were protesting using democratic means. But we were detained,” Rahul Pasupalan, who was one of the foremost leaders of the movement, told media channels.
Starting with right wing Hindu groups, several organizations have threatened youngsters against participating in the event.
Over a thousand Hindu and Muslim culture activists assembled at Marine Drive threatening to beat up pro-kiss activists. Many of these anti-protest activists were also been arrested.
Members of both Hindu and Muslim right wing organisations have sent their volunteers to the spot in an attempt to prevent the pro-kiss activists from getting intimate publicly.
Many culture activists conducted marches against the event at the spot.
Congress affiliated Kerala Students Union has sought an explanation from the Kochi unit leaders on why they were demonstrating against the Kiss of Love protestors, indirectly supporting the moral policing brigade.
Also read our analysis of why the protest may mark the beginning of a new trend in Kerala’s political landscape.
Among those opposing the Kiss Of Love event are:
Shiv Sena Kerala and several Hindu youth organisations
Sunni Youth Front
Kerala Students Union (Congress student union)
Those in favor of the Kiss of Love protest are:
Left-wing students unions (SFI and others)
Youth Congress (Congress’ Youth Wing)
Several artists and left/liberal organisations
Those who did not have an opinion are:
Indian Union Muslim League
Indian National Congress