By Kainat Sarfaraz:
On Saturday evening, the area near Jhandewalan metro station echoed with slogans like ‘Sanghi gunde hoshiyaar, tere saamne karenge pyaar.’ Yet, the Delhi chapter of the Kiss of Love protest couldn’t achieve its goal of ‘kissing’Â right in front of the RSS headquarters as the police had barricaded the routes to Keshav Kunj.
When asked why and under what section were the protesters stopped from going to Keshav Kunj, ACP Om Prakash took a moment to reply, “Law and order problem hosakta hai.” He seemed hesitant to state anything more than this. The protesters, mostly students from universities like DU and JNU, remained undeterred. They formed a human chain and continued shouting slogans, clapping, singing songs like Jumma Chumma Dede and Jab Pyaar Kia Toh Darrna Kya near the metro station. They held hands, cuddled in public and even kissed. But when a couple was spotted kissing, they were roughed up by the counter protesters present there.
The Hindu Sena, along with the RSS, ABVP and independent volunteers, had organized a counter-protest barely a few feet away. Slogans like “Paschimi sabhyata wapas jao”and “Vande Mataram” emanated from this side of the turf. The right-wingers said that they were protesting against kissing in public places as it went against our ‘Indian culture’ and also because it is ‘gair-kanooni’. However, they could not explain how kissing in public was illegal. Asked if they were against the Supreme Court decision which clearly states that kissing in public does not come under the purview of Section 298, they said that they respected the Supreme Court – “Par khule aam kiss karna hamaari sanskriti nahi hai”.Â Pointing towards reporters from BBC, Aditya Pratap Shukla, a staunch supporter of RSS asked, “Why do you think they have come here? What interest do they have in this? It is all a plan to destroy our sanskriti”.Â He further went on to state that the nation would prosper only if the Sanghi ideologies were followed diligently.
Fascinatingly, Vaughn Bryant, an anthropologist who specializes in the history of kiss, states that the earliest reference to kissing-like behavior comes from the Vedas around 3,500 years ago. And the first mouth-to-mouth kissing was first described in The Mahabharata. Academics who have studied it say that kissing spread slowly from India to other parts of the world after Alexander the Great and his army conquered parts of Punjab in northern India in 326 B.C. Yet, the self-proclaimed protectors of the ‘Indian culture’ cannot stand couples kissing in public places.
Maybe that is the reason why despite repeated attempts, the Kiss of Love supporters were not allowed to march towards Keshav Kunj. This resulted in a change of plan and they resorted to taking on to the main road near Jhandelwan station. Though the three-hour long campaign was mainly about the right to display affection in public places, the organisers also spoke about casteism, honour killings and khap panchayat diktats. Naturally, they were disrupted several times by the right-wing activists. The campaigners then staged a sit-in at Rani Jhansi roundabout and blocked traffic for over an hour. According to Delhi Police, 70 protesters were detained at the Paharganj Police Station for a brief period.
The first Kiss of Love protest was organized in Kerala after the right-wingers had vandalized a pub in Kozhikode. The Delhi episode of it was planned by JNU students through Facebook as they too were against the recent events of moral policing done by the saffron groups. The right-wingers had gone to the extent of threatening and abusing the organisers on the Event page created on Facebook. Yet, students from various groups like The All India Students’ Association (AISA), Students Federation of India (SFI) and the All India Students’ Federation (AISF) participated in the protest. Some present there said it was more of a ‘political act’ as these groups were always in conflict with the ABVP. Interestingly volunteers from the ABVP made comments like the ‘communist ideology’ was ‘destroying the Indian culture’. The on-lookers too were skeptic about the choice of place and they considered it ‘provocative’. However, when inquired about the choice of location of the event, one of the protestors, Nayan Jyoti, replied “The police say that we should only protest at Jantar Mantar or Ramleela Maidan. WhyÂ can’tÂ we protest anywhereÂ we want?”.
It would be wrong to say that those who support the Hindutva ideology are the only ones against public displays of affection. People across various faith and ideologies were against the Kiss of Love protest. According to them, it is embarrassing to come across such ‘indecent’ activities when they are out with their families. However, the question that needs to be answered here is that if they, who indulge in such activities, do not have a problem in doing so, why should that bother others?
Why judge people on how and where they choose to love?
Why kill people for inter-caste and inter-faith marriages?
Why raise a voice against their freedom?