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4-min read

Kerala Activists Launch 'Kiss-In' Protest Against Shiv Sena's Moral Policing

Fed up of the spate of moral policing incidents over the last few months, protestors and campaigners came together to hold a counter-protest by locking lips, literally, in Kochi, as part of a 'Kiss-In' protest on Wednesday.

Neethu Reghukumar | News18.com

Updated:March 10, 2017, 11:56 PM IST
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Image for representation only.
Image for representation only. (Photo: Reuters)

Thiruvananthapuram: Kiss-in and halla-bol, is the rights activists' way of hitting back at the moral police.

Fed up of the spate of moral policing incidents over the last few months, protestors and campaigners came together to hold a counter-protest by locking lips, literally, in Kochi, as part of a 'Kiss-In' protest on Wednesday.

The effort was to counter the activism of Shiv Sena workers, who two days back, had caned and chased away couples from Kochi's Marine Drive, objecting to young romances.

The Shiv Sena's act of using sticks to drive away young couples from Marine Drive led to widespread public anger. Subsequently, eight Shiv Sena workers, including its district president and vice-president, were arrested and remanded to judicial custody
.

A sub-inspector, who was at the spot but couldn't stop the self-proclaimed upholders of morality, was suspended, while eight other police officers were transferred for lapses.

The 'Kiss-In' campaign included street plays, musical performances by local bands, demonstrations by the LGBT community and, of course, many activists simply assembling and kissing in public. While it was mostly by random campaigners who had got together through social media, activists from Leftist groups like the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the Students' Federation of India and the Youth Congress too joined in, taking out marches along Marine Drive.

Kochi had, two years back, witnessed a similar 'Kiss of Love' campaign that had led to more objections and even some violence from right-wing groups. This time, the kissing activsts decided nothing would stop them – police too stood by silently through the demonstrations.

In state capital Thiruvanthapuram, people gathered at the Kanakakunnu palace, sang folk songs and spoke out against right-wing groups usurping basic rights.

"It's high time we all come together and stand up for our rights. Things are going in a dangerous direction, where people are beating up others. Society has to change according to changing times. They have to accommodate new thoughts and ideas. We cannot go back to the dark ages," said Syed Aamir, one of the protestors.

ALSO READ | Kochi Moral Policing: Shiv Sena Suspends Activists

In Kochi, SFI activists said they would join hands with like-minded student unions to fight moral policing.

"We cannot accept this kind of moral policing. There are healthy relations between men and women, and that has to be accepted. We feel that these people have ventured out in such activities (like caning young lovers) for cheap publicity," said M Vijin, SFI State Secretary.

"Kerala is a land known for social reforms, but now fascist tendencies and groups are trying to take it back to square one. We will not let this happen. We will fight it with all our might. Everyone should be vigilant against such acts," he added.

The public anger and protests drew comment even from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who announced in the Legislative Assembly that the government would consider charging those involved in moral policing under the Kerala Anti Social Activities (prevention) Act, KAAPA. Admitting to police lapses in controlling law and order, the CM further promised to deal with moral policing sternly in future.

Stung by criticism of aiding (or simply looking the other way) when the moral police groups strike, the Kerala police chief has given specific guidelines on how to deal with moral policing in future.

"In order to handle the so-called 'moral policing,' State police should cover public areas like parks, bus stands, railway stations, malls and outside cinema theatres, etc. at the relevant time, after appropriate briefing (by superiors). The police should not only prevent such illegal action, but also take prompt and firm action against the perpetrators, when such activities are noticed or brought to their notice," a police notification states.

The police force too faces some allegations about their patrol officers behaving inappropriately with the public, asking irrelevant questions of young couples and intruding on their privacy.

It is the responsibility of the DPC concerned to ensure that such reported inappropriate behaviour is not resorted to by any member of the force. For this, he can issue some dos and don'ts and allot timings. The DPC of districts where there are Pink Patrol forces, must ensure that the Pink Police personnel are properly trained, briefed and issued directions as to how to behave while discharging their duty,” the notification further states.

ALSO READ: On Women's Day, Sena Workers 'Chase Away' Couples in Kochi

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| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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