By Jigna Kotecha:
Air is thick with calumny in India. Right-wing monomaniacs are working overtime to wave their saffron flags against ‘Kiss of Love’ protest that started from Kochi in Kerala and later spread in other parts of India.
Kiss of Love, a non-violent movement, began on November 2 against moral policing. Moral brigade of ostensibly leaderless religious fundamentalists of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, SDPI, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Sena and Ernakulam wing of Kerala Students Union started beating students to safeguard “Hindu culture”. These are the same right-wingers who proudly demand dowry, blame women for rape and foment public opinion based on ill-founded facts about “Hinduism”.
Both the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court have made it clear that kissing in public is not an obscene act and no criminal proceedings can be initiated for kissing in public. While these landmark judgments failed to rattle the “conservative” ideas of right-wing fanatics, urban youngsters continue to kiss, hug and hold hands in public to challenge these moral guardians.
But, why do we Indians need to organise ‘Kiss of Love’ to express love and affection? Time and again, Indians are pushed to prove the existence of certain freedoms and rights that every democratic country gives to its people. While history gives an evidence of liberal Indians, recent turn of events show Indians losing their grip on freedom. Every step we take towards progress is decimated by slave drivers of unproven mythological beliefs.
When is this colonial hangover going to end? Is making moral judgments enough to restore our faith on Nationalism? Is censoring nudity, banning ‘tamasic’ food in IITs, making needless insinuations about virginity, supporting mass genocide in the name of faith, lobbying against sex education in schools or moral policing going to save mankind from say, armed conflict, Ebola, climate change, poverty, hunger or terrorism? Freedom bound by dogma is no freedom at all.
Why are we still not allowed to make humanistic decisions, based on science and reason and not religion and belief? Why are we scared of progressive transition? Are we not suffocated by the bigotry of low expectations from the human race? Dogma in any form is lethal!
We should understand how busy the conservators of Indian “sanskar” are. They must have forgotten to read the history of kissing before subjecting us to virulent harangue.
According to Vaughn Bryant, an anthropologist at Texas A&M University who researched the history of the kiss says that the earliest kissing references were found in India. Around 3,500 years ago, they describe the custom of rubbing and pressing noses together. About 500 years later, the epic poem Mahabharata contained references of lip kissing, which are referred as “history’s first recognizable descriptions of romantic kissing”. The historic reference continues with the Kama Sutra, a classic text on erotica, believed to be written somewhere between 400 BCE and 200 CE, where descriptions of kissing techniques abound.
Now, kissing is of course a personal act of affection inside someone’s personal sphere. When in public, we cannot abandon our personal freedom of expression and behave differently. Public morality has always been iat odds with freedom of expression. However, public morality is dynamic. It highly depends on degree of acceptance a society offers. For example, public kissing is allowed in US but nudity is banned. Many are comfortable with kissing in public, some are not. And, it is their personal choice. It’s all about tolerance, mutual respect and the principle of ‘live and let live’. But it is fascism to forcefully impose a code of conduct on people based on personal discomfort.
Women are uncomfortable with chauvinism, eve-teasing, harassment and voyeurism. Is the saffron brigade concerned? No! They threaten, slander and beat in public. It is patriarchy claiming territory in public space. Like Amartya Sen wrote in his book ‘The Idea of Justice’, “The notion of human right builds on our shared humanity. These rights are not derived from the citizenship of any country, or the membership of any nation, but are presumed to be claims or entitlements of every human being. They differ, therefore, from constitutionally created rights guaranteed for specific people.”
If we are comfortable with demagogue politicians fomenting discontent among masses every election then why not kissing in public?
Why are the right-wing busybodies constantly monitoring freedom of women and the LGBT? Because they want to curb our personal freedom. We are living under the constant threat of these fascist groups who are engineering caste atrocities, communal violence, gender discrimination, wage disparities etc to savagely suppress our rights.
If these people are allowed to curb our personal freedom in one sphere, then it is soon bound to spill over in an even more virulent fashion into other spheres. The examples are aplenty – Shiv Sena promising Rs 21,000 reward to those Hindu families having more than 10 children to keep majority status intact; RSS ideologue Dinanath Batra trying to recast India’s history from a Hindu perspective or Yogi Adityanath asking supporters to convert 100 Muslim women through marriage, every time a Muslim man marries a Hindu. He also claims that religious riots happen wherever more than 10 per cent of the population is Muslim.
So, it is important not to be abstract in our extrapolations, and react more strongly to everything that is threatening our freedom. The death of bigotry will only come through non-compliance. If we fail to resist, the dominant culture would consume and murder our freedom.