Kiss Of Love completed one year on November 2nd with the first Kiss of Love organised at Kochi Marine Drive last year challenging the cultural moral policing and violence unleashed on people. It is the realisation that the attack on the Down Town Hotel in Calicut was was an attempt to recreate the violent model of attack that Sangh Parivar forces have been unleashing in Mangalore and Bangalore. Several individuals, universities and organisations embraced and organised it in various places in Kerala and several parts of the country such as Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Trivandrum, Calicut, Alapuzha, etc. It also created a network of people who endorsed and participated in several progressive movements and protests henceforth. Most of the members have been verbally abused online, threatened in person and vilified in TV discussions, but the movement and its members have slowly and steadily been able to make a space for discussion and debate to voice their progressive stands through online spaces, alternate news portals and holding public meetings.

The latest assault on the Kiss Of Love movement, the last in the long list of assaults against its activists over the past one year in Kerala. It involves the arrest of KOL activist, Rahul Pasupalan and his wife Resmi Nair, over sex trafficking charges. Under these circumstances, as people who have been active members of the KOL, we think it is important to bring to your attention to a few facts with regard to KOL and the recent controversy.

1. KOL is not a movement which was executed with any official leadership. There are no full time KOL activists or an official committee to review and take a disciplinary action or suspend a supporter from the movement if they act against the ideology of the movement. It does not keep a tab on their personal activities or political affiliations of its supporters, but surely there is social auditing.

It was the media that projected the couple as ‘leading spokespersons’, and baptised them as Chumbana Samara nayakan and nayika and made them icons of the KOL movement. It is the voyeuristic tendencies of the media that reduced KOL to these two individuals who are involved in the modeling and filmmaking profession. In the past months, both in the issue of Cherian Phillip’s misogynist comments Rahul Pasupalan had revealed himself to be totally opposed to the spirit of the KOL. Several people involved have questioned his statements and openly challenged his refusal to withdraw his statements. Ignoring these developments, the media has consistently and systematically equated Rahul Pashupalan with KOL in all its reports. This is a clear indication that media wanted malign the credibility and ruin the relevance of KOL which has emerged as a strong threat to right wing fundamentalist forces. However this media bombardment is just the last in a long line of assaults we have suffered over the last year. We have weathered them, and we will weather this too.

It is also important to state that the case against the two has been registered only on 18-11.2015 (two days back) and it is not appropriate to assume them to be guilty already. We demand that they receive a fair trial and if they are found guilty, they must be punished as per law. Proclaiming them guilty before that is illegal and unethical.

2. There is no common position on sex work in KOL though all of us are against pedophilia and many of us have worked to report such pages, including the one mentioned in the case: Kochu Sundarikal. As has been mentioned in many reports, those who have reported the page and helped the police are also individuals who are involved with KOL. Why is it that the media is doing this selective reporting and ignoring the positive involvement of the movement in bringing the pedophile racket to the eyes of law?

3. The rising intolerance and violence unleashed on people who assert human and constitutional rights make movements like KOL the need of the hour. KOL has been able to create a collective of individuals who question, oppose and resist the prevalent norms of patriarchal society and the right wing agenda of those in power. The effective use of social media space to circulate the news that the mainstream media ignores and blacks out is another threat to the fascist forces. It also saw some of the members coordinating and involving in various progressive movements and protests ranging from Catch the Pamba Bus, Aarthavasamaram, Kalyan Sarees Irikkal Samaram, entevaka500, forabetterFB campaign, Queer Pride March, Munnar Penpillaiorumai, etc. Thus the emergence of such a powerful counter voice threatens both those in power and the proponents of cultural morality. Hence it is their combined necessity that such progressive movements be countered and crushed. Misogyny, sexual conservatism, gender inequality, and such interrelated evils are enduring structures and these cannot be undone with a few struggles. If KOL questioned and alarmed the carriers of these tendencies, it will continue to do so through several such struggles in the coming months.
We the undersigned, hereby endorse this statement. Kindly add your name, place and affiliation.
Shahina Nafeesa, Kochi, Open
Devika J, Trivandrum, Centre for Development Studies
Kavita Krishnan, Delhi, All India Progressive Women’s Association
Aswathy Senan, Delhi, Delhi University.