By Rahul Maganti:
The last few days have initiated a much needed debate on sexuality and love, thanks to the attack by Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party on a restaurant in Kozhikode where supposedly youngsters were practicing ‘western culture’. Ironically, this was ‘reported’ the day before by a news channel politically backed by the Congress, the ruling party in Kerala. Such a passionate channel it is, that it prioritized ‘reporting’ over respecting the privacy of the youngsters by infringing on their private space.
There is a fine line between sexism/misogyny/patriarchy and sexuality which these right wing fringe conservative elements always fail to recognize and get it wrong by a whole arm’s length, every single time. To reiterate my point, I would like to put across an example of how flawed their understanding of the idea of women, love and sexuality is. An anchor from a TV channel questioned the office bearer of BJP Yuva Morcha, “Don’t couples have a right to be at a beach together at night”? And, not surprisingly, he answered, “What happened in Delhi when a girl was travelling with her lover at night in a bus”? With this statement, he eventually implied that, ‘Delhi rape happened because the girl was roaming around with her boyfriend at midnight’. They are back to what they are best at – victim blaming.
Love and sex are defined by what you believe they are. Let not the moral fascists dictate them for you. A group of youth in Kochi believed the same and came forward to celebrate Kiss of Love against moral policing. They were set to celebrate Kiss of Love protest wherein couples would join at Marine Drive and take up a mass kissing drive; which didn’t happen because the state machinery, the police and the Govt., in association with the right wing combine — The BJP Yuva Morcha, Siva Sena, KSU (branch of NSUI) and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), rallied against the very idea of public display of affection as this is what our ‘culture’ is against.
Why is Kiss of Love absolutely necessary?
We all love, in different ways. Don’t we? But whatever be the way, love always needs safe spaces to grow and flourish. We also have desires and sexuality. They manifest in different ways. But whatever be the way, even discovering sexuality is a journey for each individual. It needs to be understood and be supported by the fraternity around us. By us, within ourselves, by the people we encounter and get involved in sexual liaisons with, and by the society that we live in. Moral policing consigns a journey of either love or discovery of one’s own sexuality to shame. It takes away from humanity rather than contribute to it in different ways. As if sexuality doesn’t help build meaningful relationships and journeys of self-discovery.
Yes, this is the time when hormones are surging through our bodies. Yes, this is the time when we discover that we have needs other than food, clothing, shelter, education and care too. Yes, this is the time when we begin to learn about our sexual needs, and others’ too. Yes, this is the time when we learn that we do fall in love, and that everyone else may do too. Yes, this is the time when we learn that love is not easy, and yet it is beautiful and giving. Despite its difficulties, it enriches us.
But instead of having a healthy atmosphere where we can discover our joys and needs, where there is more information and understanding about love and sexuality, we often come across repressive moral policing that try to shame us for feeling what we do. That tries to tell us that we’re children, not adolescents or adults with valid needs that we are grappling to understand, and definitely willing to explore, respectfully. Like our desires have no dignity of their own.
Parents kiss their children, lovers kiss each other. Each kiss beautifully tells us how much we’re appreciated, how much we’re loved, how passionately we are desired. Kiss of Love is just that assertion – to say that it’s beautiful to love. It’s beautiful to kiss. It’s beautiful to hold each other and tell them that they are loved. That there is very much a dignity about being able to do that without having to feel ashamed about it.
Solidarity from IIT Bombay
A group of students in IIT Bombay under the name Progressive and Democratic Students Collective decided to stand in solidarity with the comrades in Kochi on the same day and at the same time. I am one of the main organizers and my vantage point from now on will be that of an organizer. On 2nd November, 2014 at 5.30 PM, students started to gather at the Convocation Hall Lawn and started making posters. Few faculty members joined too. An enthusiastic crowd of over 300 people joined in for the protest. Around 5.45, I welcomed and addressed the crowd. “We stand here in solidarity with not only the comrades in Kochi but also against the brutal killing of the Dalit family killed in Ahmednagar not very far away from Mumbai. We stand in solidarity with other kinds of exploitation, discrimination and oppression anywhere in the world”, I concluded, while explaining why the series of events which happened in Kozhikode and Kochi should not be seen in isolation but as a fascist onslaught which was on a rise in the recent few days with the advent of a right wing party at the centre. I also questioned the flawed argument behind the demand for separate vegetarian messes which was on fallacious grounds of ‘tamasic’ food and ‘western culture’.
Aditya Shankar, another fourth year dual degree student and representative of Saathi, the LGBTQ club of IIT Bombay, addressed the audience later and explained the need for freedom of expression. Aditya also explained the kind of moral policing going around in the country on the sexual minorities. Then students came forward and sang the songs of friendship and protest like “Yaroon Dosti” and “We shall overcome” together. The students later marched together towards the main gate. There, a foreign exchange student from France named Helen spoke in solidarity with the movement towards the end of the rally.
Students also showed their solidarity by writing slogans on a white board and a poster paper. They wrote slogans like “Love is not a crime, Moral policing is!”, “Moral Fascism, Food Fascism, DOWN DOWN” and the protest also had many slogans written in different languages depicting the diversity of the culture. This message from the students of IIT Bombay is a message against any kind of fascism, exploitation, discrimination and oppression
You can check the pictures of the event here.
Some tough questions
Just a few days back, the students of IIT Bombay and TISS organized a solidarity protest in support of the fighting Adivasis who are struggling for their livelihood, and land that the Govt. had promised in 2001. There is hardly any traction in the Mumbai media. But, the Kiss of Love in IIT Bombay attracted so many news channels that our phones haven’t stopped ringing since yesterday. We were asked to come to studios to talk, we were asked to give sound bites and photos and what not. I ask myself, why is the media consciously ignoring the struggle of the Adivasis while on the other hand reporting the Kiss of Love event is their top priority? The answer is simple. The Adivasi struggle is a threat to the oppression and discrimination they faced over the years, and might actually end up questioning the ‘caste’ and ‘class’ equation which the Corporates and their own Media is veryÂ worried about. The corporations that own the media are a direct stakeholder in many cases. In other words, it’s a direct battle between the proletariat and the bourgeois, setting the tone for an economic and social revolution.
I am in no way belittling the Kiss of Love protest and wholeheartedly support it, but am only theorizing the failure of the mainstream media in reporting the struggle of Adivasis which has crossed 120 days. This makes us all the more suspicious of them when we weren’t covered by them when we rallied in solidarity with the people of Gaza, and when we walked in support of the students protestingÂ against state oppression in Jadavpur University.