A homogeneous culture that excludes dissenting voices and individual expression is a breach of Indian sanskriti
Unless you’ve recently returned from Saturn, you couldn’t have missed the Kiss of Love that has gripped the entire nation. The movement started in Kochi, where, in response to right wing vandalism against “immoral” PDA, a non-violent protest was started on social media, with plans for a peaceful show of love and affection in November.
Thanks to police intervention, the expected tsunami of kissing was reduced to a whimper, but it was enough to spark a series of similar events across the nation, from Delhi in the north to Kolkata in the East and Hyderabad in the south. All of them, we would like to point out, perfectly harmless and peaceful.
But all it needs is a whiff of PDA in India for the moral police to come swarming out of their holes, err, homes – the very homes where they happily swing to Munni Badnam Hui or spend hours searching for risqué pictures of Sunny Leone (as this feature reveals, Indians are among the biggest consumers of porn in the world). And so it happened in the University of Hyderabad on November 2, where a peaceful discussion on moral policing was disrupted by members of the right wing ABVP (Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad) and BJYM (Bharati Janta Yuva Morcha).
Were the University authorities concerned about this intrusion upon their campus and the safety of their students? Of course not. In a move reminiscent of what happened in Jadavpur University more than a month ago, the University Registrar and Pro-VC instead took official action against its students for, you guessed it, participating in the “obscene act of public kissing”. Ironically, public kissing was not part of the students’ original agenda, but incessant harassing by the right wing activists, in connivance with the local police, led to impromptu hugging and kissing. Read a detailed account of the incident here.
Let us not go into how this action of the University authorities contravened numerous fundamental rights , not to mention the University’s own responsibility towards safeguarding its students and upholding its motto of “That is knowledge which liberates”. Let us, instead, look at the clarifications provided by Sanjay Palshikar, Professor of Political Science in the University of Hyderabad, to the enquiry committee instituted by the University to look into this matter. A brief summary of his submissions:
1. Kissing in public is not illegal in India, nor is it automatically “obscene” : context is important.
In appropriate context, spelt out variously by the relevant judgments, it has been seen as an expression of love, expression of love and compassion, and its artistic representation as defensible. Absent in all these cases is the tendency to presume that every kiss is an act of sexual expression and that indulging in this act in public is always obscene.
2. Ideals and morality change with time. Moreover, in a country as diverse as India, it is important to respect various values and opinion, instead of simply treating the “majority” (or shall we say loudest?) voice as representative of the country.
It is ironical that, on the one hand, we talk about the power and potential of the Indian youth, and on the other, we cannot resist the urge to fetter their thoughts, opinions and actions. But it is also encouraging that sections of these youth are wise enough to demand a nuanced discussion on culture and what it means for the individual. Even better, they haven’t lost their sense of fun and adventure! As these research students from the University observe:
The point of the protest was lost in all the media sensationalization. A locking of lips, or an embrace, is the site of protest, of dissent, of expression. And not for obscenity or voyeuristic titillation. The greater cause was not the freedom to kiss, but the freedom to be whoever one wants to be and still be a bearer of Indian culture. A cause that has emerged en route is the freedom of expression.
What do you think about kissing in public and the debate around morality and culture? Tell us in the comments below!
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