A number of students and young people were arrested by the police for holding Kiss of Love protests in Calicut even as they were opposed by splinter right wing groups.
On the face of it, there seemed to be 200 protesters in favor of Kiss of Love in Calicut, more than in Kochi.
A smaller group of protesters gave police the slip and demonstrated at the ‘mithai street’ of Calicut.
UPDATE: Social activist Didi Damodaran and her husband have been manhandled by Shiv Sena at Mithai Street for kissing publicly.
Kiss of Love activists seemed to be better organized in Calicut and were able to assemble and shout slogans and hold up placards before being rounded up by the police. Protesters shouted slogans saying their movement will continue.
According to Shafiq, a protester who was interviewed by Mathrubhoomi channel, the police hit the protesters with canes.
Many onlookers got into arguments with each other as the events unfolded.
Unlike in Kochi, the protesters adopted a strategy of coming in dribbles to prevent a mass arrest.
Starting from 2:50 pm, protestors of Kiss of Love continued to reach the bus stand venue in pairs and small groups for about 35 minutes.
Anti-kiss protesters also attacked journalists, according to TV channels.
The active anti-kiss political outfits, such as BJP’s Yuva Morcha, Congress Party’s Kerala Students Union, Sunni Youth Front and Shiv Sena did not hold protests at the bus stand. Kochi had seen groups from some of the above groups roam the protest venue with lathis.
Arundhathi Naluketti, a member of the Left-wing Students Union of India who has been instrumental in organising some of these protests, said the withdrawal of mainstream political outfit from the protest venue was a positive.
“They have realized that the protest has gained acceptability among the masses,” she claimed in a media interview.
K Venu, a noted left-leaning intellectual in Kerala, said the protests should not have been blocked by the police. “The protests are aimed at addressing issues such as sexual depravity and related problems, as well as acts of so-called moral policing, and should not have been resisted by the police.”
Sivan Madathil, a social activist and advocate, said he did not dispute couples’ right to kiss or hold hands, but did not approve of ‘illegal’ protests. “To hold any protest involving more than 10 people, you have to take the police’s permission. Without taking such a permission, this was an illegal protest. I do not approve of it,” he told media.
The protests were planned at Kozhikode Mofusil bus stand at 3 pm. As of 2 PM, there were only around 100 curious onlookers at the protest venue. The Kozhikode Police Commissioner has said no permission has been sought to hold the protest and none has been given.
At 2:45, the city police started removing people from the protest venue – both Kiss of Love protesters as well as anti Kiss of Love protesters. Hanuman Sena protesters have also been arrested and removed from the venue.
In Kochi, the police had not arrested right wing protesters, only Kiss of Love activists. The move had come in for heavy criticism.
A new organisation, ‘Hanuman Sena’ has threatened protestors of dire consequences and warned them not to go ahead with the planned program.
The first protest had led to Facebook clamping down on the movement by blocking the official page of the Kiss of Love movement, depriving the organizers of their sole and main method of mobilization. Facebook also permanently disabled access to ‘Freethinkers’, a rationalist Facebook group which had over 40,000 members after the protests.
Most of the leaders of the protests were active on the Facebook group, which probably led the social network to shut it down. Both the page and the group had to be started again, with the Kiss of Love page now having 144,676 likes and the Freethinkers group having 20,083 members.
The Kiss of Love protests started a month ago after Yuva Morcha, the student wing of the ruling party, trashed a restaurant in Calicut. This took place after Jaihind, a television channel that has links to the Congress Party, alleged that ‘morally depraved’ activities were going on in the ‘Down Town’ restaurant. To back up its claim, the Jaihind Channel showed grimy footage of a couple of youngsters kissing in the dark in the restaurant’s parking lot.
The sacking of the restaurant by Yuva Morcha led a lot of ordinary citizens to criticize the political outfit for ‘moral policing’. Many people, including ‘intellectuals’, flocked to Down Town restaurant on the same day in solidarity with the business.
In the aftermath, Kiss of Love was organized as a response to rising acts of ‘moral policing’ in Kerala. Kerala has seen vigilante attacks of couples holding hands and travelling on bikes together in recent months, often from hardline Islamist citizens who find such acts against religion.
With BJP’s Yuva Morcha joining in, the organizers felt the full force of the conservative movement, and decided to kiss and protest against it.
However, even as the protestors were planning a kissing demonstration, counter-protestors from Islamist and Hindu right wing organizations reached the spot in their hundreds and held ‘flag marches’ declaring they won’t allow indecency in public. This led to further tension, but the police arrested the would-be kissers, who continued their unique form of protest inside the police van as well.
While the movement enjoys a lot of support among the young, especially those who use the Internet, many old people simply don’t understand why people would want to protest against ‘moral policing’. Some people see moral police as the protectors of Indian culture.
The movement set off similar attempts across India, including at IIT Bombay, Hyderabad, Delhi and so on.