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Kerala – The Kiss Revolution Is On the Streets #Kissoflove


*By K.P. Sasi*

14 December, 2014

No guns, no bombs, no swords, no knives no sticks and no violence – only
kisses! The Kiss Revolution is on the streets in Kerala without expressing
any violence. On the one side, the communal fascists have lined up to
assault the protesters physically and on the other side, the police
machinery has chosen not to take any action on those who express violence,
but to beat up and arrest the peaceful protesters. The fearless teenagers
face both these aggressive bodies and yet they do their job. They just
kiss! In the political circles, many are confused. Why kisses? Some are
amused and others are threatened. Whether people like it or not, one thing
is clear: The kisses are spreading in Kerala and outside like a virus.

In politics, throughout history, there has always been a question: who is
the teacher and who is the student? It is so obvious that the younger
generation in Kerala have decided to break the rules. The teachers are
forced to learn politics from a section for whom they are desperate to
teach. It was in the 70s that the Pink Floyd sang this song: `We don’t need
no education, we don’t need no thought control.’ The younger generation who
have taken up a bold step through the Kiss of Love protest in Cochin and
Kiss on Street protest in Calicut seem to be singing the same old song to
their politically educated teachers in Kerala. There seems to be a
remarkable and distinct line of difference between the teachers and the
survivors of political education. The teachers are not prepared to get
beaten up for their convictions while the younger generation `just don’t

One of the questions raised by the critics of the Kiss Protests is that
there are several important issues in this country and some people are
raising trivial issues. `If they want to kiss do it in their homes. Why do
they bring out a non-issue just for publicity?’ To my mind, the incidents
of kiss protests in Cochin, Calicut, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad
where the younger generation decided to use `Kiss’ as a symbol of their
political expression have a remarkable impact on the existing political
thought process. These incidents have brought in various discussions on
violence on women, moral policing, sexuality issues, human rights as well
as the current growth of communal fascism in India. The incidents have also
generated enough discussions on the new forms of struggle by the youth.
Some of the old time political teachers said that it was a wrong strategy,
some even said it was immoral and some were of the opinion that though the
issue and struggle are genuine, we should also look into the current
context of the perceptions of the people on such forms of struggle to make
it a success. All the teachers were proved wrong.

I went to Calicut to express solidarity to the struggle of the youngsters.
I reached a bit late and by the time those who kissed in the bus stand were
attacked by the Shiv Sena-Hanuman Sena combine as well as the police and
the protesters were arrested. The next protest where I could join was in
Mithai Therivu. There were very few people on that spot since the
youngsters were spread out in different places of protests. A large number
of police and Shiv Sena/Hanuman Sena were there with very few old time
protestors. The policemen were arresting everybody who were kissing on
street. I could only find two three anarchists like Deepak Narayan and poet
Louis Peter (the term anarchist is used here only as a common lingo and not
on the basis of anarchist ideology which is a much deeper subject) to kiss.
As soon as I reached, I kissed them and I was asked to speak and I spoke. I
said `You must tell the foreign tourists who visit Kerala that kissing in
public in this God’s Own Country is prohibited, it is immoral and if they
do that they will be beaten up’. To my despair, in spite of my short speech
and kisses in public, the police did not move to arrest me and the group of
Sanghis were also trying to ignore me. I do not know the reasons, but I
assume that the following may be the reasons: a. I was introduced as an
international award winning film maker before the speech, b. The police had
enough trouble on many occassions before with those whom I kissed, namely
Deepak Narayan and Louis Peter and they might have thought that the police
stations needed a rest, c. My mustache was too overgrown on that day and my
lips did not touch anybody, d. In that particular kissing scene, we were
men and if there were women with us involved with the event of the kiss, it
would have been a different scenario. I believe that the last explanation
seems more satisfying with what I witnessed in the unfolding events.

Soon, the well known cultural personality Didi Damodaran came and spoke in
favour of the protest and she kissed her husband Prem Chand who is a well
known journalist. Immediately, the communal goondas of the Hanuman Sena
became violent and started beating them up. Police also became violent and
used their lathis and many except the communal fascists were beaten up. In
the confusion, I also got pushed around by people. Two friends of mine told
me that they saw somebody beating me on my back. I am still a bit confused
whether I am really beaten up or just pushed around during the confusion.
Probably one of the members of the Hanuman Sena who was standing next to me
hit me on my back while others were pushing each other to run to escape the
lathis of the police.

The constant question asked by the Sanghis is: `If your mother, sister or
daughter is doing such an act, will you allow it?’ I was also asked the
same question. My answer was that `if my mother, daughter or sister kisses
somebody out of their own choice, I will be the first one to support it.
But if it is something against their choice, I will be the first one to
oppose it.’ Respect to choice of individuals in such affairs is too
important. That is somehow missing in the dictionary of the Sanghis.
However, my own mother was not very fond of getting kissed. But during the
later stages of her life, she had got used to my kissing on her cheeks.

The reason for the Sanghis to chose the kiss of Didi Damodaran to initiate
violence was very clear. She was a woman. But what they forgot was their
own arguments saying: `If your mother, sister or daughter is doing it, will
you allow it?’ Didi Damodaran was only kissing her husband. Can a brother,
father or son beat up a couple during such an occasion? And all those
members of the Shiv Sena and Hanuman Sena who were beating up wherever a
woman was kissing, were just men. There was not a single woman to beat up
the protesters. The notion of patriarchy was clearly exhibited against the
protesters. It was men beating up women in public! And the Sanghis never
asked the question: `If your father, brother or son is doing this, will you
allow it?’

While the youngsters who kissed in public were beaten up both by the police
as well by the Shiv Sena/Hanuman Sena combine in Kerala, the explanation of
the police needs more attention. According to them, they were trying to
`protect’ the protesters by beating them and arresting them. The public
expression of violence seemed to be a `moral’ act and the expression of
love became `immoral’. It is here we have to really understand the notions
of morality which is being politicised by the Sanghis.

As per the notions of the Sanghis, the kiss in a public space is immoral
and they were the force assigned to see to it that morality is practised
properly in this society, even with the use of physical violence. The
police as well as the Sanghis told the youngsters who kissed: `what you
should do in a private place with lights switched off, can not be done in a
public space’. Now, this argument leads to a discussion on our notions of
`private’ and `public’ spaces chosen to kiss. One side of the argument is
that `if nobody sees it, it is okay.’ The other side leads to another
question, can a combination of Dalit-Upper Caste couple or a combination of
Muslim-Hindu couple or a Lesbian couple or a Gay couple or a transgender
couple kiss peacefully inside a private space of an upper caste family? So
the argument is not something between a private and public spaces chosen
for a kiss. The problem is the kisses of the marginalised: Of women, of
Dalits, of Muslims, the sexuality minorities and of other marginalised
sections. It is here that the kiss in this context becomes a revolutionary

The other question for discussion is whether there is a standardised
morality in India in all these issues. As per the Anthropological survey of
India there are around 4,000 cultures in India. It means that there are
4,000 diverse moral values practised in this subcontinent. In recent times,
there have been various attempts to standardise moral values by the forces
of Hindutva in India. They primarily used Brahminical and Victorian moral
values. The most decadent form of this expression was `Moral Policing’.

In many parts of the country, interaction between boys and girls are
getting severely restricted by the interventions of the moral policemen.
Couples sitting in parks and public places are being intervened by these
moral policing forces who appear to take law into their own hands. Women,
sexuality minorities, Dalits, Adivasis and various religious and cultural
minorities have been subjected to the violence of such moral police force.
It is unfortunate that often, the police machinery have sided with the
violence of the moral policemen. A few years back, in Mangalore, when the
communal moral policemen expressed their violence on boys and girls, the
youth all over the country had expressed their concerns against such
violence. We also will have to remember with shame that it is this same
violence of the moral policemen which forced internationally celebrated
Indian artist MF Hussain to leave his own country. The moral police men in
this country have also started dictating on what films should be screened
and what literature should be published. It was these same moral policemen
who came out strongly against the celebration of Valentines’ Day a few
years back, and now they do not pursue it since the youth in this country
have already rejected their agenda. The same moral police force also
propagated various lies in the name of Love Jihad and when such lies got
exposed one by one, they are not in a position today to continue moral
policing with such fake stories.

The spark for this debate was when in Calicut, the youth wing of the BJP,
Yuva Morcha barged into a restaurant called Down Town, and destroyed its
properties with an allegation that the restaurant was involved in `immoral’
activities. The provocation was due to a video recording of a young couple
kissing being telecast by a channel. The secular activists all over Kerala
claimed that the real issue was that the restaurant was owned by the
religious minorities. Similar attacks were held earlier on Muslim
restaurants in Calicut. Citizens of Calicut who believed in harmony came
forward to rebuild the restaurant. When the issue became debated all over
Kerala and outside, the BJP leadership in Kerala said that the violence
initiated by their youth wing was unfortunate and can not be justified..
However, there was no commitment to pay compensation for the damages of

In response to the violence of the moral policemen in Calicut, the youth in
Cochin announced a Kiss of Love protest. Activists of the Sangh Parivar
came with sticks and swords to confront those who supported the Kiss of
Love protest. The protest called `Kiss of Love’ was a symbolic action for
the right to love as well as a peaceful dissent against the politics of
hatred. More significantly, it must be also seen as a woman’s right, for
women are the worst victims of moral policing. We must remember that the
women in this country are victims of moral policing not just outside their
homes, but also inside their homes.

All religions have spoken about love. Though the protesters in Cochin as
well as Calicut were extremely peaceful and non-violent and though the
Sangh Parivar activists were violent, the police chose to take action only
on the peaceful protesters. Those who expressed violence were ignored by
the police who chose to side with the violent communal fascist machinery in
Cochin as well as in Calicut. The incident in Cochin provoked the youth in
Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, New Delhi and Calcutta to initiate Kiss of Love
protest. All these protests were public articulation against the politics
of violence and hatred. They were outstanding protests in a new form,
against the growing communal fascism in India. The protest of Kiss of Love
in Cochin was a response to this event in Calicut. After several kiss
protests in different parts of the country, the Kiss on Street protest was
conducted in Calicut by a group of brave teenagers on December 7, 2014.

The incidents which happened in Calicut needs serious attention. It appears
that the Kerala Police has joined Hanuman Sena. One day before the Kiss
Protest in Calicut, the Hanuman Sena had put up posters all over Calicut
that the protesters would be paraded naked. They could not do that. The
communal fascists tried their level best to initiate a highly `moral
activity’ called public naked parade of the protesters. They were trying
this on women who participated in the Kiss on Street protest. The
protesters did not express any violence. Those who became violent on the
peaceful protesters were the police and the Hanuman Sena/Shiv Sena. The
visuals of those who were beating up the protesters are available with the
channels and the mainstream media. It is so easy to arrest those who took
law into their own hands. Chief Minister Oomman Chandy along with his soft
Hindutva Home Minister repeated the same attitude of what they did in
Cochin. In Cochin, the moral policemen came with swords and sticks to
confront those who came for the kiss protest. Here in Calicut, the Sanghis
came prepared to beat up people and to disrobe women. In spite of a public
announcement of provocative poster with criminal intentions all around
Calicut, the Kerala police has refused to take action. All democratic
forces and all anti communal forces must join together to condemn the
fascist moral policemen and the State police violence in Calicut as well as

A few weeks before the Kiss on Street protest in Calicut, a journalist
friend requested me for a photograph of me kissing somebody in the context
of the debate on Kiss of Love protest. I was in Orissa at that time and I
immediately thought of Abhay Sahoo. Abhay Sahoo would not have minded a
kiss from me. But having argued with a lot Sanghis on issues like the
rights of the sexuality minorities in India, though I am a heterosexual, I
am amused that many of them treat me as a gay. I have absolutely no problem
with such branding. It only surprised me that if you support the cause of
rights of Adivasis, they don’t brand you as an Adivasi and if you support
the cause of women’s rights, they don’t treat you as a woman, but if you
support the struggle of sexuality minorities and their struggle against the
draconian law called Section 377, they seem to treat you as a part of
sexuality minority. They do not understand that I belong to the smallest
minority in India called atheists in India. We do not even have any
minority status.

A couple of weeks before the Calicut protest, some of us were in Mangalore
on November 21, 2014. The Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation
(KSMTF) was on a struggle campaign with a slogan `Protect Sea, Coast,
Inland Waters and Livelihood of Fishing Community’. The struggle was
initiated as a boat rally from Mangalore to Thiruvananthapuram. Having a
look at the situation of the sea and the coast in Kerala, I feel that such
a campaign needed urgent moral and political support as well as support
through contributions from all like minded friends. The boat rally which
spearheaded the campaign started from Mangalore on November 21, 2014, was
inaugurated by Medha Patkar and the campaign ended in Thiruvananthapuram
with a huge crowd in Shankumukham beach on November 30, 2014 with the
presence the opposition leader VS Achuthanandan and many other activists
participating throughout the campaign. One of the main issues of the boat
rally was the report of Meena Kumari Committee which recommended a free
license to all destructive large scale foreign fishing vessels. Earlier,
Murari Commission had recommended freezing of all such licenses due to
massive political protests from the fishing community against foreign
vessals. If you remember, some time back Togadia had come to Kerala to
claim that the sea and the coasts belongs to the `Hindus’. The mainstream
newspapers had reported this idiotic statement properly. However, with
Meena Kumari committee report, our prime minister Narendra Modi is
preparing to prove that our sea and coastal areas belong to the western
corporations! While inaugurating the campaign in Mangalore, Medha Patkar
gave an excellent speech on the issues faced by the fishing community
today, under these situations of corporate invasion of our seas.

In the context of the present ongoing Kiss Protests and with the excellent
speech delivered by Medha Patkar, I requested her if I can give a kiss on
her cheeks. She smiled and refused my offer in a polite manner saying: `I
am a very traditional person.’ Here, I would like to understand the meaning
of tradition in India today. Is it that kisses are not allowed in our
traditions? Medha Patkar is a forceful leader who has broken many political
traditions in India. After Harsood rally in the eighties where many
people’s movements fighting against destructive development came together,
Medha was instrumental in coining the national campaign `Development, Not
Destruction!’ The campaign had inspired many people all over the country
till today, breaking all traditions laid down by political parties. When
Medha was not a national figure, we used to support the Narmada Bachao
Andolan in the eighties and I remember her coming along with us and jumping
the gate of our small house in Delhi which used to be locked by the
landlord. Medha had enjoyed the hot dal curry and rice which was made at a
short time. At the initial protests like Kevadia march, Sarat Chandran, P.
Baburaj and I were also arrested along with camera equipments and thousands
of people from Narmada Valley. In Bhopal, I was lucky to spend a few days
in jail along with this inspiring person called Medha whom I respect very
deeply, surrounded by around 33 activists for blocking the road in front of
the vehicle of the director of the World Bank. Our documentary film, `A
Valley Refuses to Die’ generated enough support for the movement in the
initial stages of the Narmada movement. Do I not deserve a simple harmless
kiss on the cheeks of Medha Patkar? She knows very well that I had no
sexual interest and it was only a matter of political support to the
struggle of the teenagers in Kerala who were getting beaten up. Where does
tradition come in between? My involvement with such struggles was based
entirely on political traditions. The other tradition that we talk about as
culture in this sub continent called India is filled with billions of

After losing my hope with Medha Patkar, I approached T.Peter, the leader of
the fisher people’s struggle in Kerala as well as at the national level. He
was extremely angry with the very suggestion of a Kiss. T. Peter is an
extremely sincere political leader of the fishing community. I had an
equation with him from 1984 onwards when we made a documentary film called
`We Who Make History’ on the struggle of the fisher people on the social
and ecological impact of trawlers. The documentary was used to generate
support for the struggle in many ways. Later, we made a film called
`Resisting Coastal Invasions’ based on the struggles of fisher folk in
Kerala and Tamil Nadu on the issue of CRZ. While thousands of violations on
the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification (CRZ) have been going on, leaders
like T. Peter have consistently questioned the Governments on the issue of
the rights of the fishing community, which are appropriated by tourism
industry, real estate and mega development projects. Peter is a role model
for any activist like me for his capacities of inclusive politics. He had
always gone far beyond the immediate issues of the fisher folk and
supported Adivasi struggles, struggles against various destructive
development projects in Kerala, Koodankulam anti nuclear movement,
Kandhamal struggle for justice, the struggle of Irom Sharmila for Repeal of
AFSPA, Plachimada struggle and so on. Our association has been long in many
of these activities. However, I could not understand why he should be very
angry with a simple harmless offer of a kiss from me. Is it because I do
not have sufficient teeth these days?

I was recording the event of the fisher people’s boat rally in Mangalore on
video along with Roy David and other friends. Roy started his activism in
the seventies with land less labourers and tenants in Mangalore. The land
lords had rushed to him with swords to kill him. They chopped him with
swords and left him on a paddy field, thinking that he was dead. After few
hours some local villagers found the bleeding Roy David on the fields
breathing in spite of the cuts of the swords and he was immediately taken
to the hospital. Though he lost blood for five hours before reaching the
hospital, Roy came back to life after one year of treatment and today he is
working with Adivasi struggles in Coorg as well as at a national level. One
chop towards his head was blocked with his hand and that hand is still in
bad shape. With all the marks of swords on his body even today, he showed
enough courage to stand up for KK Shahina’s bail along with Prof. Nitin and
Ashok Mathews Philip in Bangalore, when many activists were afraid to
intervene. Before leaving, after the programme of KSMTF in Mangalore, when
people were having lunch, I finally managed to give a kiss on Roy’s cheeks
in support of the `Kiss of Love’ protest. Photographer Deepti Desai took a
photograph of the kiss and a few participants of the meeting saw the
photograph. Soon the discussion shifted from Meena Kumari Committee and
Murari Commission and other issues of the meeting in Mangalore to the Kiss
Protest. Some supported the Kiss Protest and others did not. Vilayodi, the
leader of the Plachimada struggle was trying to explain to a group of four
or five people, why he could not support such a struggle. I approached him
silently and asked: `Vilayodi, I have a request.’ `What’, he asked. I said:
`Can I give you a kiss’. He got a shock! I said, `you don’t have to kiss
me. I will kiss you.’ When I took a few steps towards him to kiss him, he
ran. I ran a few meters behind him to kiss him and left the idea, thinking
that I could catch him some other time.

Vilayodi is a person whom I respect a lot for his contributions in
Plachimada struggle. But what made me realise in this situation is the
power of the kiss. Here is a leader of a struggle who fought one of the
biggest multinational giants in the world called Coca Cola, and due to this
struggle, the powerful American multinational had to close down its factory
in Kerala. But the same leader was running with the fear of my kiss! With
this experience, I realise that the kiss is certainly more powerful than
the bomb! I hope the youth which is involving in these protests as well the
traditional activists who do not involve in these protests will soon
understand the political power of the kiss. If the Sanghis are so much
threatened to bring sticks and swords to confront kisses in Marine Drive in
Cochin, there is definitely a major political power behind such expression
of love called kiss through your lips. Those who say that such exhibition
of kiss is against our tradition and culture must practice the dozens of
types of kisses recommended by Kaamasutra. Even though I am an atheist, in
this context of turbulent debates on our culture and traditions, I am also
inspired to recommend the Sanghis to read the stories of Kaamadeva (the God
of Erotic Love) who came from these very Aryan and Brahminical traditions
of our culture. Certainly, the present kisses initiated by the youth
protesters are against a distorted fascist moral policing which is
undertaken without any understanding of the culture and tradition which
they claim to represent. I can not yet understand whether the Sanghis can
claim that the rapes conducted by them on the minorities in Kandhamal,
Muzaffarnagar, Gujarat and dozens of other places have anything to do with
`Indian Culture’. Surprisingly, the communal fascists seem to own `Indian
Culture’ `Indian Traditions’ and `Indian History’ without realising that
there were billions and billions of kisses on this subcontinent called
India, if not during the brutal rapes they have conducted during the
communal riots.

Much before the Kiss on Street protest in Calicut, while I was screening
our documentary film called `Fabricated’ in a festival in Mumbai, my good
friend CM Sherif who is one of the secretaries of the Solidarity Youth
Movement was present. This Muslim youth movement has played a major
supportive role for many people’s movements in Kerala. Our documentary was
also a result of their patient and unconditional support. During the break,
when I was discussing about the ongoing struggle of Kiss of Love protests
by the youth in various parts of the country, he was trying to explain his
stand against the Kiss of Love protest. As an impulse, I grabbed his cheeks
and gave him a good kiss. After that, there were no further arguments from

However, I am extremely sure that all these leaders whom I respect a lot
are rethinking today on their immediate perceptions on the Kiss protests.
If they do not do that, I am sure, the teen agers of the present generation
will educate them and change their perceptions on Kiss through a Kiss

The Kiss Protests have confused not just the communal forces, but also the
left. While some of the sections of the left provided `moral’ support to
the protests, the state leadership of the left stated that they did not
appreciate the methods used by the protesters. The CPI(M), DYFI and SFI
have used violence in many situations to defeat the opponents. The Hanuman
Sena put up posters all over Calicut that those who participate in the
protest will be paraded naked. These posters are a criminal offence. No
action is taken against them. Kissing on street is nothing illegal. But if
you talk about methods of protests used by the organised left in the past
namely, burning buses, threatening people and destroying properties, etc.
are more `immoral’ than the adopted form of protest used by the youth on
the Calicut protest. The murders between the left and RSS are also well
known. The kiss protest used a beautiful symbol of love instead of hate as
a form of protest. If the left leaders who made such statements against the
protest had some sense, they would have understood its political value.
Don’t our left friends realise that this new form of struggle through an
expression of love is more powerful than their physical power? The Sanghis
took law into their hands in Calicut while the protesters were peaceful.
Both the Sanghis and the police joined together to attack the protesters
physically. You may not agree with the form of protest used by the
protesters. But the minimum expectation from the left is to understand the
issues raised by the youth as well to stand by them on the deep human
rights violations they faced. Though a certain section of the left provided
moral support to the struggle, the ultimate stand taken by the left is
highly depressing. But at the same time, it is a relief to note that the
KSSP has come out in favour and has appealed to the wings of the left
forces to support their struggle in Aleppey on similar grounds.

What is most shocking for me is the civil society responses in Kerala.
Thousands gathered to watch the teenagers kissing so that they can take
photos with their mobile phones. When these peaceful young protesters are
beaten up by the communal goondas and the police, nobody among these
thousands of spectators of `educated and politically conscious’ state of
Kerala was willing to intervene. The spectators in history have always
groomed fascism.

The incidents of Kiss protests are nothing new. A few years back, when the
members of the transgender community in Bangalore were beaten up by the
police, they went to the same police station on the next day and gave every
police man a rose flower along with a kiss. After that, the police did not
trouble them for some time. It appears that every Indian is desperately
searching for a kiss in their own minds. Deep in their minds, they are
singing an old Mohammed Rafi song: `Kiss, Kiss, Kisko Pyar Karum? Kaise
Pyar Karum?’ And if they do not receive it for themselves, some of them
turn violent if they see somebody else receiving love. It is the psychology
of the street dogs who bark at those dogs who mate.

The Kiss of Love protests were only symbolic actions against the politics
of hatred. It need not have any sexual intentions also. Looking at the Kiss
of Love protests in Cochin, Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad
etc., I am convinced that the youth today have found new forms of struggle
which cannot be dreamt of by the old time activists. While the Sanghis and
other communal forces are trying to spread fear through the politics of
hatred, I am getting a gut level feeling that they are too frightened about
the power of a `Kiss of Love’! For once, let us recognise one basic truth
of life: That love can unite, create harmony and peace much more than

As far as the new generation which is trying to evolve new forms of
struggles in this country, by courageously questioning the Brahminical and
Victorian moral values in spite of getting beaten up by the Sanghis as well
as the police, I would sincerely request them to remember one Mexican
proverb during all their activities: `They Buried Us. But They Did Not Know
That We Were Seeds!’ And I am sure that these seeds will grow, with leaves,
flowers and fruits.

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