By Dyuti Jha:
Delhi, on 8th November, witnessed a flood of around 400 young people on the streets, who gathered to reclaim their social space, to assert their right to live and love against the moral fascism of the right wing fundamentalists. The ‘Kiss of Love’, that started in Kochi on 2nd of November and reached the capital on Saturday after it’s Mumbai and Kolkata chapters. The venue of the event was outside Jhandewalan Metro Station, just a stone’s throw away from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Headquarters. People gathered there in large numbers – clapping, chanting slogans like “Jo tum na doge azaadi, hum choom ke lenge azaadi!”,Â singing to the tunes of “Jab pyaar kiya toh darrna kya”, hugging and kissing the people they love, right in the face of the self proclaimed guardians of Indian ‘Culture’, and the Delhi Police. The event was a great success despite the efforts of RSS supporters and the police to disrupt it.
The right wing moral fascists tried to prevent the event from happening right since the beginning, when it was being planned. The event page on Facebook, where the information about the event was being conveyed, was flooded with all sorts of hate-spewing bizarre posts by staunch right wing fundamentalists. All of them were very disturbing. A lot of them openly threatened to beatÂ us to pulp if we continued. One of those posts read, “Aao, aao, dande aur talwaron se swagat karenge tumhara.” (“Come, come, we’ll welcome you with sticks and swords”). Some other went like, “Why don’t you bring your mothers and sisters to the protest. We will take kisses (sic) from them too.” And “Why are you just kissing on street? Start having sexual intercourse in public too.” Pankhuri, whose number was provided there on the page for coordination, had to stop taking calls because threatening calls and messages started pouring in. She finally had to remove the number, but it was of no use. Her phone is still being flooded with them. Other organizers and the potential participants were also threatened via Facebook messages. But these efforts did not affect the spirit of the fellow protesters.
When I reached the venue at around 4.20 PM, the street in front of Jhandewalan Metro Station was flooded with 150 to 200 people who were chanting slogans and singing songs, surrounded by a bunch of RSS supporters who were trying to counter the protest with placards that had pictures of a kissing couple with “Kiss of Love Hindustan mein nahin chalega” written on it. The police was trying to prevent the protesters from public displays of affection as well. As soon as the first couple kissed, the RSS workers charged towards them and manhandled a few fellow protestors. A middle aged RSS worker was seen running after the female protesters shoutingÂ shamelessly that he wanted to kiss them. The Police, in the meanwhile, shut gate no 2 of Jhandewalan Metro Station to prevent more people from joining in. My friends, Sakshi Upadhyay and Tanaya Khan Jha, got out of the station through Gate no 1 and were stopped from reaching the venue by some 5-6 RSS workers who surrounded them and tried to harass them while they were walking towards Gate no 2. They saw a man being beaten up by the RSS people while the Police stood there without doing anything.
The Police didn’t let us go till Keshav Puram, where the office is located, but that did not dampen the spirit of the protestors. We marched with much vigour, raising slogans and singing songs, for around 2 kilometers, and made a human chain with almost 300 people blocking traffic at the signal on Desh Bandhu Gupta Road. The onlookers were curious and many of them joined us after knowing the cause of the protest. We were soon stopped by a group of around 50 RSS workers, and a brief scuffle followed. The police arrested a few people who were released soon after. Pankhuri, one of the organizers, once again addressed a crowd of around 400 people sitting on road about the motive of the protest and the struggle of reclaiming the social space that has been intruded by moral fascists, and concluded the event.
The reactions that followed were as interesting as the event itself. As soon as the photos from the event started flooding social media, there was a new wave of hate speech by the fundamentalists. I would like to share my personal experience here. I kissed a female friend of mine on her lips, and that photo went viral. This picture was posted on the Facebook page of Outlook India as the cover photo. The comment threads are bizarre and disturbing.Â “These are the girls who act like these and then get raped and cry”, “They should be paraded naked and hanged so that no one has guts to do these”Â are a few of the many others. A few were hilarious as well. Someone called me “A bindi sporting lesbian” in one of the comments. My inbox was flooded with messages from the fundamentalists calling me all sorts of names and issuing threats to me, my friends and family. I had to deactivate my Facebook account due to this nuisance. The same has been in the case of the friend I kissed.
But hate is not the only kind of reaction we have received. Our effort has been appreciated by people in great numbers. The success of this protest has been a huge blow in the face of the moral fascists. They must realize that people are not going to be okay with the intrusion in their personal spaces by these self proclaimed guardians of Indian ‘culture’, they will no more tolerate any sort of fundamentalist policing that violates the freedom of choice. The people are rising against hate – to love, to live, to let love, to let live.