The great tide of street agitations, seminars, conventions and innovative symbolic protests against Narendra Modi government at the centre began in Kerala in November 2014. The government was barely six months old and it was as though scores of athletes (read anti-Modi brigade) were waiting at the starting point of a steeplechase competition for the sound of the gunshot. The gunshot in God’s Own Country came in the form of an attack on a restaurant owned by a few Muslim youth in Calicut allegedly by Yuvmorcha activists. The reason for the attack being that the restaurant furtively gave away its premises for (im)moral activities.
There have been several video clippings of young couples in compromising positions in the parking lot of the restaurant doing the rounds on social media. These young couples could have been lovers, husband and wife, young girls and boys skipping the classes, or any of such relationship between a man and a woman. It is nobody’s business to secretly shoot video footage of such activities in a private restaurant meant for the public. The liberals, leftists, “self-proclaimed” progressive intellectuals and the feminists of the state are of the view that when grown up people engage in such activities—even if it is on the street—nobody has any right to pry into their private affair and let alone raise any voice against it. The writer of this article also corroborates the argument that no modern civilized society should allow any type of moral policing and unsolicited peep into others’ private lives. I would rather leave it to the better sense of the readers to judge whether the repeated happening in this restaurant was a case of “Peeping Tom Syndrome” or a case of unethical business tactics put into practice. Since the case is sub judice let us not make any further comments about it.
What emanated from this incident were unprecedented scenes on the streets of Kerala. The Kiss of Love Campaign emerged quietly as a facebook campaign under the leadership of a certain Rahul Pashupalan and his wife Reshmi and several accomplices. All the people who opposed PM Modi, his party and their ideology showed tremendous zeal and passion to exhibit their zest to uphold “liberal values”, “progressive outlook of life” and to maintain their “secular credentials” by participating in this innovative form of agitation. This went on for almost a year in various parts of the state especially in Cochin and Calicut (although everywhere the “kissers” had to overcome the violence that erupted out and the thousands of voyeuristic looks of the mobile camera eyes). As opposed to the classic voyeuristic action or the “Peeping Tom” phenomenon, here the “victims” (read exhibitionists) were seeking out the voyeurs. The onlookers did come out in large numbers—in thousands—and a handful of well known people from all walks of life as exhibitionists were seen at a few venues. The drama went on for almost a year and the organizers did try to transplant it to many other Indian cities—but unlike in Kerala, it fell flat elsewhere.
How did it come to an abrupt end toward the last lap of 2015? The anti-climax of these absurd and bizarre protests was that the agitators were being taken for a ride by Mr. Rahul Pashupalan, his wife Reshmi and their accomplices. They were recently arrested for running a huge racket of flesh trade. The modus operandi was that Rahul negotioated with the clients and on offer was his wife Reshmi herself. It turned out that Kiss of Love Campaign was a very cleverly worked out ploy for the couple to make a database of young women involved in the Kiss of Love campaign and later entice and enlist them to their flourishing flesh trade. It is a pity that two elected representatives from Kerala, belonging to the two fronts, one each to the Parliament and State Assembly, gave all moral and logistical support through their unusually frequent comments and write-ups on various social media platforms and public meetings. The very fact that they were hand in glove with the dubious agitators like Pashupalan, speak volumes about the high moral ground that they adopt in various issues! Many noted, but overzealous activists, writers—and unfortunately—many gullible students fell easy prey to the ugly designs of a few individuals. Once the true colour of the organizers came out in the media, suddenly “all smiles stopped together” and one could see many Kiss of Love campaigners and supporters shamelessly scurrying for cover. When this disgraceful newsbreak lost its sheen in public minds slowly some of the earlier Kiss of Love activists started coming out from their foxholes and making noises disassociating from Mr. Pashupalan & Co.
There is a very disgusting counter-narrative to this whole debate of Sangh Parivar’s alleged moral policing. This counter-narrative is not a fictitious argument put forward to discredit the “supposedly true narrative” of moral policing unleashed by the Sangh. Incidentally, the Calicut restaurant “untoward incident” was just a one-off happening, if it could be called moral policing (or a matter of freedom to express love and cuddle in public) by any stretch of imagination at all. In a state where the activists of minority Muslim fundamentalist organisations like the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Popular Front of India (PFI), Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and scores of other Islamist organisations have given a free rein to its cadre to bash up any non-Muslim man seen friendly with a Muslim girl or woman (in public or in private) is quite shocking! More shocking is the apathy with which the so-called secular political parties, tolerance-guards, culture-preservers and sundry activists ignored these acts over the past several years. Scores of such incidents have been reported and many more have escaped the attention of the media all over Malabar region and sporadically in South Kerala too. Whether such bashing up and crass religious intolerance come under the ambit of moral policing or at least under INTOLERANCE are matters to be decided by these “pundits” only.
These unreasonable extremists have vitiated the communal atmosphere of North Kerala so much so that a non-Muslim male school or college student is wary about being familiar with a Muslim female classmate or a schoolmate in public view (outside the campus) in many parts of the state. (Definitely these incidents are not widespread and do not happen on a daily basis; but when an isolated incident in Calicut has been picked up for a long deceptive struggle with multiple ulterior motives, such happenings should have aroused the conscience of this brigade). Unfortunately these incidents are not restricted to the students of schools or colleges. Even among the grown-ups this has happened in many towns and villages of Kerala. The whole narrative of the Calicut incident and its ugly aftermath should be analysed in this context.
Hence what has happened in God’s own Country over the past several months is nothing but a blind and highly hypocritical attitude on the part of the ruling party and the principal opposition. Both the fronts and its cadre have actively abetted and involved themselves in the street agitations. Kerala’s ruling party, Indian National Congress’s, fate and future hinges upon the benevolence of IUML and its cadre. They can only soft-pedal the moral policing committed by these zealots. In the case of the Left and the principal party in that alliance—the CPM, they simply do not let go any opportunity to tarnish the image of Mr. Narendra Modi and his party. Hence in almost every street corner kiss-protests, the CPM cadre unabashedly participated alongside the likes of Pashupalan. Those mainstream media trying to be “politically correct” either buried such reports conveniently or tucked these reports to some remote corner in the newspapers in the form of a two line report. The electronic media never really bothered to take up such matters seriously. While the “secular” parties are wary about the loss of Muslim votes, a section of the media is worried sick about a possible downslide in circulation due to the collective bargaining power of this minority community.
The viral quote, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize!” is applicable to God’s Own Country too. This is in essence the social, political and cultural condition of present Kerala. The penchant for political correctness supposedly impelled by liberal ideologies is in effect a perpetual fear of offending the sensibilities of the minority group. Free inquiry by those considered is at stake and the vernacular mainstream journalists have become crafty spin doctors. Many acts of minority bigotry is neither seriously reported and brought to the limelight by the media nor criticized by the intellectual elites and creative writers in the state. Professor PJ Joseph’s hand being chopped off is a case in point. Had it not been for the court and the NIA, the whole issue would have just evaporated into thin air as the issue was treated with such insensitivity by the present rulers, the Left, the liberals and all who joyously celebrated Kerala’s recent tryst with sexual freedom. Weighed down by the demands of patriarchy and rising orthodoxy under the watchful eyes of the “Progressive Left,” many tried to paint Kiss of Love as a campaign for releasing Kerala from its regressive mindset. However things have gone back to square one. In the bargain, the political parties which partook in the year long struggle for freedom to express love in public, shared the spoils and are having the last laugh!!