The Kiss Revolution Is On the Streets!
By K.P. Sasi
14 December, 2014
No guns, no bombs, no swords, no knives no sticks and no violence – only kisses! The Kiss Revolution is on the streets in Kerala without expressing any violence. On the one side, the communal fascists have lined up to assault the protesters physically and on the other side, the police machinery has chosen not to take any action on those who express violence, but to beat up and arrest the peaceful protesters. The fearless teenagers face both these aggressive bodies and yet they do their job. They just kiss! In the political circles, many are confused. Why kisses? Some are amused and others are threatened. Whether people like it or not, one thing is clear: The kisses are spreading in Kerala and outside like a virus.
In politics, throughout history, there has always been a question: who is the teacher and who is the student? It is so obvious that the younger generation in Kerala have decided to break the rules. The teachers are forced to learn politics from a section for whom they are desperate to teach. It was in the 70s that the Pink Floyd sang this song: `We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.’ The younger generation who have taken up a bold step through the Kiss of Love protest in Cochin and Kiss on Street protest in Calicut seem to be singing the same old song to their politically educated teachers in Kerala. There seems to be a remarkable and distinct line of difference between the teachers and the survivors of political education. The teachers are not prepared to get beaten up for their convictions while the younger generation `just don’t care!’
One of the questions raised by the critics of the Kiss Protests is that there are several important issues in this country and some people are raising trivial issues. `If they want to kiss do it in their homes. Why do they bring out a non-issue just for publicity?’ To my mind, the incidents of kiss protests in Cochin, Calicut, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad where the younger generation decided to use `Kiss’ as a symbol of their political expression have a remarkable impact on the existing political thought process. These incidents have brought in various discussions on violence on women, moral policing, sexuality issues, human rights as well as the current growth of communal fascism in India. The incidents have also generated enough discussions on the new forms of struggle by the youth. Some of the old time political teachers said that it was a wrong strategy, some even said it was immoral and some were of the opinion that though the issue and struggle are genuine, we should also look into the current context of the perceptions of the people on such forms of struggle to make it a success. All the teachers were proved wrong.
I went to Calicut to express solidarity to the struggle of the youngsters. I reached a bit late and by the time those who kissed in the bus stand were attacked by the Shiv Sena-Hanuman Sena combine as well as the police and the protesters were arrested. The next protest where I could join was in Mithai Therivu. There were very few people on that spot since the youngsters were spread out in different places of protests. A large number of police and Shiv Sena/Hanuman Sena were there with very few old time protestors. The policemen were arresting everybody who were kissing on street. I could only find two three anarchists like Deepak Narayan and poet Louis Peter (the term anarchist is used here only as a common lingo and not on the basis of anarchist ideology which is a much deeper subject) to kiss. As soon as I reached, I kissed them and I was asked to speak and I spoke. I said `You must tell the foreign tourists who visit Kerala that kissing in public in this God’s Own Country is prohibited, it is immoral and if they do that they will be beaten up’. To my despair, in spite of my short speech and kisses in public, the police did not move to arrest me and the group of Sanghis were also trying to ignore me. I do not know the reasons, but I assume that the following may be the reasons: a. I was introduced as an international award winning film maker before the speech, b. The police had enough trouble on many occassions before with those whom I kissed, namely Deepak Narayan and Louis Peter and they might have thought that the police stations needed a rest, c. My mustache was too overgrown on that day and my lips did not touch anybody, d. In that particular kissing scene, we were men and if there were women with us involved with the event of the kiss, it would have been a different scenario. I believe that the last explanation seems more satisfying with what I witnessed in the unfolding events.
Soon, the well known cultural personality Didi Damodaran came and spoke in favour of the protest and she kissed her husband Prem Chand who is a well known journalist. Immediately, the communal goondas of the Hanuman Sena became violent and started beating them up. Police also became violent and used their lathis and many except the communal fascists were beaten up. In the confusion, I also got pushed around by people. Two friends of mine told me that they saw somebody beating me on my back. I am still a bit confused whether I am really beaten up or just pushed around during the confusion. Probably one of the members of the Hanuman Sena who was standing next to me hit me on my back while others were pushing each other to run to escape the lathis of the police.
The constant question asked by the Sanghis is: `If your mother, sister or daughter is doing such an act, will you allow it?’ I was also asked the same question. My answer was that `if my mother, daughter or sister kisses somebody out of their own choice, I will be the first one to support it. But if it is something against their choice, I will be the first one to oppose it.’ Respect to choice of individuals in such affairs is too important. That is somehow missing in the dictionary of the Sanghis. However, my own mother was not very fond of getting kissed. But during the later stages of her life, she had got used to my kissing on her cheeks.
The reason for the Sanghis to chose the kiss of Didi Damodaran to initiate violence was very clear. She was a woman. But what they forgot was their own arguments saying: `If your mother, sister or daughter is doing it, will you allow it?’ Didi Damodaran was only kissing her husband. Can a brother, father or son beat up a couple during such an occasion? And all those members of the Shiv Sena and Hanuman Sena who were beating up wherever a woman was kissing, were just men. There was not a single woman to beat up the protesters. The notion of patriarchy was clearly exhibited against the protesters. It was men beating up women in public! And the Sanghis never asked the question: `If your father, brother or son is doing this, will you allow it?’
While the youngsters who kissed in public were beaten up both by the police as well by the Shiv Sena/Hanuman Sena combine in Kerala, the explanation of the police needs more attention. According to them, they were trying to `protect’ the protesters by beating them and arresting them. The public expression of violence seemed to be a `moral’ act and the expression of love became `immoral’. It is here we have to really understand the notions of morality which is being politicised by the Sanghis.
As per the notions of the Sanghis, the kiss in a public space is immoral and they were the force assigned to see to it that morality is practised properly in this society, even with the use of physical violence. The police as well as the Sanghis told the youngsters who kissed: `what you should do in a private place with lights switched off, can not be done in a public space’. Now, this argument leads to a discussion on our notions of `private’ and `public’ spaces chosen to kiss. One side of the argument is that `if nobody sees it, it is okay.’ The other side leads to another question, can a combination of Dalit-Upper Caste couple or a combination of Muslim-Hindu couple or a Lesbian couple or a Gay couple or a transgender couple kiss peacefully inside a private space of an upper caste family? So the argument is not something between a private and public spaces chosen for a kiss. The problem is the kisses of the marginalised: Of women, of Dalits, of Muslims, the sexuality minorities and of other marginalised sections. It is here that the kiss in this context becomes a revolutionary act!
The other question for discussion is whether there is a standardised morality in India in all these issues. As per the Anthropological survey of India there are around 4,000 cultures in India. It means that there are 4,000 diverse moral values practised in this subcontinent. In recent times, there have been various attempts to standardise moral values by the forces of Hindutva in India. They primarily used Brahminical and Victorian moral values. The most decadent form of this expression was `Moral Policing’.
In many parts of the country, interaction between boys and girls are getting severely restricted by the interventions of the moral policemen. Couples sitting in parks and public places are being intervened by these moral policing forces who appear to take law into their own hands. Women, sexuality minorities, Dalits, Adivasis and various religious and cultural minorities have been subjected to the violence of such moral police force. It is unfortunate that often, the police machinery have sided with the violence of the moral policemen. A few years back, in Mangalore, when the communal moral policemen expressed their violence on boys and girls, the youth all over the country had expressed their concerns against such violence. We also will have to remember with shame that it is this same violence of the moral policemen which forced internationally celebrated Indian artist MF Hussain to leave his own country. The moral police men in this country have also started dictating on what films should be screened and what literature should be published. It was these same moral policemen who came out strongly against the celebration of Valentines’ Day a few years back, and now they do not pursue it since the youth in this country have already rejected their agenda. The same moral police force also propagated various lies in the name of Love Jihad and when such lies got exposed one by one, they are not in a position today to continue moral policing with such fake stories.
The spark for this debate was when in Calicut, the youth wing of the BJP, Yuva Morcha barged into a restaurant called Down Town, and destroyed its properties with an allegation that the restaurant was involved in `immoral’ activities. The provocation was due to a video recording of a young couple kissing being telecast by a channel. The secular activists all over Kerala claimed that the real issue was that the restaurant was owned by the religious minorities. Similar attacks were held earlier on Muslim restaurants in Calicut. Citizens of Calicut who believed in harmony came forward to rebuild the restaurant. When the issue became debated all over Kerala and outside, the BJP leadership in Kerala said that the violence initiated by their youth wing was unfortunate and can not be justified.. However, there was no commitment to pay compensation for the damages of destruction.
In response to the violence of the moral policemen in Calicut, the youth in Cochin announced a Kiss of Love protest. Activists of the Sangh Parivar came with sticks and swords to confront those who supported the Kiss of Love protest. The protest called `Kiss of Love’ was a symbolic action for the right to love as well as a peaceful dissent against the politics of hatred. More significantly, it must be also seen as a woman’s right, for women are the worst victims of moral policing. We must remember that the women in this country are victims of moral policing not just outside their homes, but also inside their homes.
All religions have spoken about love. Though the protesters in Cochin as well as Calicut were extremely peaceful and non-violent and though the Sangh Parivar activists were violent, the police chose to take action only on the peaceful protesters. Those who expressed violence were ignored by the police who chose to side with the violent communal fascist machinery in Cochin as well as in Calicut. The incident in Cochin provoked the youth in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, New Delhi and Calcutta to initiate Kiss of Love protest. All these protests were public articulation against the politics of violence and hatred. They were outstanding protests in a new form, against the growing communal fascism in India. The protest of Kiss of Love in Cochin was a response to this event in Calicut. After several kiss protests in different parts of the country, the Kiss on Street protest was conducted in Calicut by a group of brave teenagers on December 7, 2014.
The incidents which happened in Calicut needs serious attention. It appears that the Kerala Police has joined Hanuman Sena. One day before the Kiss Protest in Calicut, the Hanuman Sena had put up posters all over Calicut that the protesters would be paraded naked. They could not do that. The communal fascists tried their level best to initiate a highly `moral activity’ called public naked parade of the protesters. They were trying this on women who participated in the Kiss on Street protest. The protesters did not express any violence. Those who became violent on the peaceful protesters were the police and the Hanuman Sena/Shiv Sena. The visuals of those who were beating up the protesters are available with the channels and the mainstream media. It is so easy to arrest those who took law into their own hands. Chief Minister Oomman Chandy along with his soft Hindutva Home Minister repeated the same attitude of what they did in Cochin. In Cochin, the moral policemen came with swords and sticks to confront those who came for the kiss protest. Here in Calicut, the Sanghis came prepared to beat up people and to disrobe women. In spite of a public announcement of provocative poster with criminal intentions all around Calicut, the Kerala police has refused to take action. All democratic forces and all anti communal forces must join together to condemn the fascist moral policemen and the State police violence in Calicut as well as Cochin.
A few weeks before the Kiss on Street protest in Calicut, a journalist friend requested me for a photograph of me kissing somebody in the context of the debate on Kiss of Love protest. I was in Orissa at that time and I immediately thought of Abhay Sahoo. Abhay Sahoo would not have minded a kiss from me. But having argued with a lot Sanghis on issues like the rights of the sexuality minorities in India, though I am a heterosexual, I am amused that many of them treat me as a gay. I have absolutely no problem with such branding. It only surprised me that if you support the cause of rights of Adivasis, they don’t brand you as an Adivasi and if you support the cause of women’s rights, they don’t treat you as a woman, but if you support the struggle of sexuality minorities and their struggle against the draconian law called Section 377, they seem to treat you as a part of sexuality minority. They do not understand that I belong to the smallest minority in India called atheists in India. We do not even have any minority status.
A couple of weeks before the Calicut protest, some of us were in Mangalore on November 21, 2014. The Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (KSMTF) was on a struggle campaign with a slogan `Protect Sea, Coast, Inland Waters and Livelihood of Fishing Community’. The struggle was initiated as a boat rally from Mangalore to Thiruvananthapuram. Having a look at the situation of the sea and the coast in Kerala, I feel that such a campaign needed urgent moral and political support as well as support through contributions from all like minded friends. The boat rally which spearheaded the campaign started from Mangalore on November 21, 2014, was inaugurated by Medha Patkar and the campaign ended in Thiruvananthapuram with a huge crowd in Shankumukham beach on November 30, 2014 with the presence the opposition leader VS Achuthanandan and many other activists participating throughout the campaign. One of the main issues of the boat rally was the report of Meena Kumari Committee which recommended a free license to all destructive large scale foreign fishing vessels. Earlier, Murari Commission had recommended freezing of all such licenses due to massive political protests from the fishing community against foreign vessals. If you remember, some time back Togadia had come to Kerala to claim that the sea and the coasts belongs to the `Hindus’. The mainstream newspapers had reported this idiotic statement properly. However, with Meena Kumari committee report, our prime minister Narendra Modi is preparing to prove that our sea and coastal areas belong to the western corporations! While inaugurating the campaign in Mangalore, Medha Patkar gave an excellent speech on the issues faced by the fishing community today, under these situations of corporate invasion of our seas.
In the context of the present ongoing Kiss Protests and with the excellent speech delivered by Medha Patkar, I requested her if I can give a kiss on her cheeks. She smiled and refused my offer in a polite manner saying: `I am a very traditional person.’ Here, I would like to understand the meaning of tradition in India today. Is it that kisses are not allowed in our traditions? Medha Patkar is a forceful leader who has broken many political traditions in India. After Harsood rally in the eighties where many people’s movements fighting against destructive development came together, Medha was instrumental in coining the national campaign `Development, Not Destruction!’ The campaign had inspired many people all over the country till today, breaking all traditions laid down by political parties. When Medha was not a national figure, we used to support the Narmada Bachao Andolan in the eighties and I remember her coming along with us and jumping the gate of our small house in Delhi which used to be locked by the landlord. Medha had enjoyed the hot dal curry and rice which was made at a short time. At the initial protests like Kevadia march, Sarat Chandran, P. Baburaj and I were also arrested along with camera equipments and thousands of people from Narmada Valley. In Bhopal, I was lucky to spend a few days in jail along with this inspiring person called Medha whom I respect very deeply, surrounded by around 33 activists for blocking the road in front of the vehicle of the director of the World Bank. Our documentary film, `A Valley Refuses to Die’ generated enough support for the movement in the initial stages of the Narmada movement. Do I not deserve a simple harmless kiss on the cheeks of Medha Patkar? She knows very well that I had no sexual interest and it was only a matter of political support to the struggle of the teenagers in Kerala who were getting beaten up. Where does tradition come in between? My involvement with such struggles was based entirely on political traditions. The other tradition that we talk about as culture in this sub continent called India is filled with billions of kisses.
After losing my hope with Medha Patkar, I approached T.Peter, the leader of the fisher people’s struggle in Kerala as well as at the national level. He was extremely angry with the very suggestion of a Kiss. T. Peter is an extremely sincere political leader of the fishing community. I had an equation with him from 1984 onwards when we made a documentary film called `We Who Make History’ on the struggle of the fisher people on the social and ecological impact of trawlers. The documentary was used to generate support for the struggle in many ways. Later, we made a film called `Resisting Coastal Invasions’ based on the struggles of fisher folk in Kerala and Tamil Nadu on the issue of CRZ. While thousands of violations on the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification (CRZ) have been going on, leaders like T. Peter have consistently questioned the Governments on the issue of the rights of the fishing community, which are appropriated by tourism industry, real estate and mega development projects. Peter is a role model for any activist like me for his capacities of inclusive politics. He had always gone far beyond the immediate issues of the fisher folk and supported Adivasi struggles, struggles against various destructive development projects in Kerala, Koodankulam anti nuclear movement, Kandhamal struggle for justice, the struggle of Irom Sharmila for Repeal of AFSPA, Plachimada struggle and so on. Our association has been long in many of these activities. However, I could not understand why he should be very angry with a simple harmless offer of a kiss from me. Is it because I do not have sufficient teeth these days?
I was recording the event of the fisher people’s boat rally in Mangalore on video along with Roy David and other friends. Roy started his activism in the seventies with land less labourers and tenants in Mangalore. The land lords had rushed to him with swords to kill him. They chopped him with swords and left him on a paddy field, thinking that he was dead. After few hours some local villagers found the bleeding Roy David on the fields breathing in spite of the cuts of the swords and he was immediately taken to the hospital. Though he lost blood for five hours before reaching the hospital, Roy came back to life after one year of treatment and today he is working with Adivasi struggles in Coorg as well as at a national level. One chop towards his head was blocked with his hand and that hand is still in bad shape. With all the marks of swords on his body even today, he showed enough courage to stand up for KK Shahina’s bail along with Prof. Nitin and Ashok Mathews Philip in Bangalore, when many activists were afraid to intervene.
Before leaving, after the programme of KSMTF in Mangalore, when people were having lunch, I finally managed to give a kiss on Roy’s cheeks in support of the `Kiss of Love’ protest. Photographer Deepti Desai took a photograph of the kiss and a few participants of the meeting saw the photograph. Soon the discussion shifted from Meena Kumari Committee and Murari Commission and other issues of the meeting in Mangalore to the Kiss Protest. Some supported the Kiss Protest and others did not. Vilayodi, the leader of the Plachimada struggle was trying to explain to a group of four or five people, why he could not support such a struggle. I approached him silently and asked: `Vilayodi, I have a request.’ `What’, he asked. I said: `Can I give you a kiss’. He got a shock! I said, `you don’t have to kiss me. I will kiss you.’ When I took a few steps towards him to kiss him, he ran. I ran a few meters behind him to kiss him and left the idea, thinking that I could catch him some other time.
Vilayodi is a person whom I respect a lot for his contributions in Plachimada struggle. But what made me realise in this situation is the power of the kiss. Here is a leader of a struggle who fought one of the biggest multinational giants in the world called Coca Cola, and due to this struggle, the powerful American multinational had to close down its factory in Kerala. But the same leader was running with the fear of my kiss! With this experience, I realise that the kiss is certainly more powerful than the bomb! I hope the youth which is involving in these protests as well the traditional activists who do not involve in these protests will soon understand the political power of the kiss. If the Sanghis are so much threatened to bring sticks and swords to confront kisses in Marine Drive in Cochin, there is definitely a major political power behind such expression of love called kiss through your lips. Those who say that such exhibition of kiss is against our tradition and culture must practice the dozens of types of kisses recommended by Kaamasutra. Even though I am an atheist, in this context of turbulent debates on our culture and traditions, I am also inspired to recommend the Sanghis to read the stories of Kaamadeva (the God of Erotic Love) who came from these very Aryan and Brahminical traditions of our culture. Certainly, the present kisses initiated by the youth protesters are against a distorted fascist moral policing which is undertaken without any understanding of the culture and tradition which they claim to represent. I can not yet understand whether the Sanghis can claim that the rapes conducted by them on the minorities in Kandhamal, Muzaffarnagar, Gujarat and dozens of other places have anything to do with `Indian Culture’. Surprisingly, the communal fascists seem to own `Indian Culture’ `Indian Traditions’ and `Indian History’ without realising that there were billions and billions of kisses on this subcontinent called India, if not during the brutal rapes they have conducted during the communal riots.
Much before the Kiss on Street protest in Calicut, while I was screening our documentary film called `Fabricated’ in a festival in Mumbai, my good friend CM Sherif who is one of the secretaries of the Solidarity Youth Movement was present. This Muslim youth movement has played a major supportive role for many people’s movements in Kerala. Our documentary was also a result of their patient and unconditional support. During the break, when I was discussing about the ongoing struggle of Kiss of Love protests by the youth in various parts of the country, he was trying to explain his stand against the Kiss of Love protest. As an impulse, I grabbed his cheeks and gave him a good kiss. After that, there were no further arguments from him.
However, I am extremely sure that all these leaders whom I respect a lot are rethinking today on their immediate perceptions on the Kiss protests. If they do not do that, I am sure, the teen agers of the present generation will educate them and change their perceptions on Kiss through a Kiss Revolution!
The Kiss Protests have confused not just the communal forces, but also the left. While some of the sections of the left provided `moral’ support to the protests, the state leadership of the left stated that they did not appreciate the methods used by the protesters. The CPI(M), DYFI and SFI have used violence in many situations to defeat the opponents. The Hanuman Sena put up posters all over Calicut that those who participate in the protest will be paraded naked. These posters are a criminal offence. No action is taken against them. Kissing on street is nothing illegal. But if you talk about methods of protests used by the organised left in the past namely, burning buses, threatening people and destroying properties, etc. are more `immoral' than the adopted form of protest used by the youth on the Calicut protest. The murders between the left and RSS are also well known. The kiss protest used a beautiful symbol of love instead of hate as a form of protest. If the left leaders who made such statements against the protest had some sense, they would have understood its political value. Don’t our left friends realise that this new form of struggle through an expression of love is more powerful than their physical power? The Sanghis took law into their hands in Calicut while the protesters were peaceful. Both the Sanghis and the police joined together to attack the protesters physically. You may not agree with the form of protest used by the protesters. But the minimum expectation from the left is to understand the issues raised by the youth as well to stand by them on the deep human rights violations they faced. Though a certain section of the left provided moral support to the struggle, the ultimate stand taken by the left is highly depressing. But at the same time, it is a relief to note that the KSSP has come out in favour and has appealed to the wings of the left forces to support their struggle in Aleppey on similar grounds.
What is most shocking for me is the civil society responses in Kerala. Thousands gathered to watch the teenagers kissing so that they can take photos with their mobile phones. When these peaceful young protesters are beaten up by the communal goondas and the police, nobody among these thousands of spectators of `educated and politically conscious’ state of Kerala was willing to intervene. The spectators in history have always groomed fascism.
The incidents of Kiss protests are nothing new. A few years back, when the members of the transgender community in Bangalore were beaten up by the police, they went to the same police station on the next day and gave every police man a rose flower along with a kiss. After that, the police did not trouble them for some time. It appears that every Indian is desperately searching for a kiss in their own minds. Deep in their minds, they are singing an old Mohammed Rafi song: `Kiss, Kiss, Kisko Pyar Karum? Kaise Pyar Karum?’ And if they do not receive it for themselves, some of them turn violent if they see somebody else receiving love. It is the psychology of the street dogs who bark at those dogs who mate.
The Kiss of Love protests were only symbolic actions against the politics of hatred. It need not have any sexual intentions also. Looking at the Kiss of Love protests in Cochin, Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad etc., I am convinced that the youth today have found new forms of struggle which cannot be dreamt of by the old time activists. While the Sanghis and other communal forces are trying to spread fear through the politics of hatred, I am getting a gut level feeling that they are too frightened about the power of a `Kiss of Love’! For once, let us recognise one basic truth of life: That love can unite, create harmony and peace much more than hatred.
As far as the new generation which is trying to evolve new forms of struggles in this country, by courageously questioning the Brahminical and Victorian moral values in spite of getting beaten up by the Sanghis as well as the police, I would sincerely request them to remember one Mexican proverb during all their activities: `They Buried Us. But They Did Not Know That We Were Seeds!’ And I am sure that these seeds will grow, with leaves, flowers and fruits.
K.P Sasi is an award winning film director and a political activist. He is also an Associate Editor of Countercurrents.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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