What is moral may not be legal and what is immoral may not be illegal. There is fine yet distinguishing line between the two acts that have helped in defining the matters of wrong and right. However, this distinguishing line is always blurred when the actions of public displays of affection are in question in the land that gave birth to the art of kamasutra. I won’t go on ranting about the fact that while we gave the world this art, it is considered immoral in our own land. The Khujarao Temples, which adorn on their walls various sensual positions that apparently, our Gods and their people took up. But, however, there is a new phenomenon that is finally taking the youth by the grip.
The campaign of The Kiss of Love has become a chain reaction that started in Cochin, Kerala, and now many similar events have been held across the country. The Kiss of Love campaign was started against the concept of Moral Policing that was exercised by various religiously related political groups. There had been various instances of moral policing in 2000’s, especially in Kerala. One of the instances was in June 2014, a young woman (theater artist) and her male friend were detained only because they were travelling together in night. However, The Kiss of Love protest was sparked off in October 2014 when Jai Hind TV, a Malayalam news channel owned by the Indian National Congress, telecast an exclusive report on alleged immoral activity at the parking space of Downtown Cafe in Kozhikode. The video showed a young couple kissing and hugging each other. A mob of attackers, who were later identified as belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha vandalised the cafe following the report.
Now, I am a law student. I have read the Indian Penal Code, which lays down all the offences that could possibly be committed in India. (It has 511 sections for crying out loud!) Section 294(a) of Indian Penal Code states that “Whoever, to the annoyance of others, does any obscene act in any public place shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both. The meaning of the word ‘obscene’ is not given in IPC, hence it is interpreted differently by different authorities. But with regards to kissing and hugging in public places, the Supreme Court of India has made it clear that ‘no case can be made out’ of two people consensually hugging and/or kissing.
Supreme Court gave this verdict in response to a petition filed by actor Richard Gere to quash the arrest warrant issued by a Jaipur court. The arrest warrant was issued after the actor had taken Shilpa Shetty in his embrace and kissed her on the cheek at an AIDS awareness programme. A verdict by Delhi High Court has also made it clear that kissing in public is not a criminal offence.
Not in any one of them is it anywhere mentioned that you cannot hug a person of the opposite gender. Neither is it given anywhere that you cannot kiss another individual as well. So if it not a crime defined by the law, then why is there such a hue and cry about it? Even various High Courts as well as the Supreme Court have repeatedly said clearly that kissing is not a punishable offence or even which requires detention. So then why are people hurt, detained, harassed just for even being with the opposite gender?
I go to a college that is in essence, a jail. A person living in the hostel can’t even step out. (Legally, obviously) A guy having a hand over the shoulder of a girl is caught and his Identity Card is taken away and only returned when their parent’s come to rescue their “undisciplined kids”. I don’t know about you guys, but my school was definitely more liberal than that. Most colleges don’t even care what is happening in their field. So why is their an intrusion into everyone’s personal lives these days? Even if they are in public, they aren’t harming anyone else. They aren’t causing any physical discomfort to anyone else just by holding hands or hugging. I think it’s this point that has gotten the youth to finally stand up for what is right.
Kiss of Love protest is a non-violent protest against moral policing which started in Kerala and later spread to other parts of India. The movement began when a Facebook page called ‘Kiss of love’ asked the youth across Kerala to participate in a protest against moral policing on November 2, 2014, at Marine Drive, Cochin. The movement received widespread support with more than 120,000 ‘Likes’ for the Facebook page. After the initial protest in Kochi, similar protests were organised in other major cities of the country. It received opposition from various religious and political groups like Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, SDPI, Vishva Hindu Parishad,Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Sena and Ernakulam wing of Kerala Students Union.
I agree that a point had to be made. A point had to be made to the regulators of moral policing. I don’t know if such a vivid display was necessary to get it across, but something indeed was necessary. Even the youth is divided on the issue. They don’t know how to react to it and those who do are either abusing the campaign or are simply supporting it wholeheartedly. I’m on the fence about it. Even though this campaign has done enough to make the country listen and to take an action for the same, how long will the heat last?
People are going to go back to their medieval ways of condoning when a girl is roaming after sunset with a guy. How else is she supposed to remain safe in the metropolitian areas? It’s unsafe for girls to roam the city in broad daylight and you want her to go out alone during such terrible times? Or you just want her to stay at home and cook round round chapatis for you? Does a girl really need to carry an identity, which says that the man she is roaming with is really a relative?
Moral policing is in our systems. We cannot change it. I appreciate the efforts, but they truly cannot change it even a little bit. This would only cause such organizations to be stricter and harass even more people to ensure that their message is heard loud and clear. I would just like to end with a quote that has been going around Facebook for some time is that – “It is alright to piss in public but not kiss, that is my India.”