By K.P. Sasi

12 November, 2014

Photo Credit/ 

As a matter of simple human interest, in recent times, the term `kiss’ has become a subject of political and intellectual enquiry in India. The observations on `kiss’ has also been subjected to political, moral, religious and cultural polarisation. In this context, I would like to bring out my observations and analysis on the recent debates on `kiss’. My understanding with limited or unlimited experiences of kisses in my life is that a kiss can shape a person into a better human being. To feel that he or she is wanted on this planet. However, what a kiss could do in the state of Kerala, has certainly become a matter of wider debate.

Kissing in both private spaces and public spaces has always had great limitations in the state of Kerala, known as God’s own country, which apparently worships Gods whose sexual instincts are well established in the Puranas.. A reporter who is known to be associated with the Sangh Parivar working in a Congress channel called “Jai Hind”, captured using a hidden camera the kissing scenes of a young romantic couple in a restaurant called Down Town in Calicut. The report implied that there were `immoral’ activities taking place in the restaurant.

As soon as the report on Down Town restaurant was telecast on the channel, the Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), attacked the restaurant and destroyed the properties of the restaurant.. Needless to say that the restaurant was obviously owned by the Muslims and before this incident, there have been similar attacks initiated by the Sangh Parivar on the Muslim restaurants in Calicut. Such attacks were based on false information and roumours, which always got published in the mainstream newspapers in Kerala. The argument of the Sangh Parivar was that this was a second Ice Cream Parlour case, the first one being a sex scandal involving the Muslim Minister Kunjhalikkutty in Kerala.

The compassionate people of Calicut joined together to help in the reconstruction of the restaurant. The violence of the Sanghis were condemned all over Kerala, especially on the face book. Finally, the leadership of the BJP in Kerala had to openly admit that the expression of violence by their youth wing was a mistake. However, there was no talk of providing compensation to the owners of the restaurant for the expression of violence by their youth, nor there was any commitment to restrain from such violence by their cadre in future.

Similar violence had taken place on the last year’s VIBGYOR International Film Festival. The BJP leader Advocate Gopalakrishnan, who was also a candidate in parliamentary elections who received extremely insignificant votes, had falsely claimed that a documentary film shown on the human rights issues in Kashmir was produced by the Pakistanis in order to move anti-Muslim sentiments among the public. The film was unfortunately produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) in which well known Indian award winning director Adoor Gopalakrishnan is the chairperson and reputed Indian directors like Shyam Benegal are on its board. While the lie was exposed, what remained was that the damage for the violence on the VIBGYOR international film festival was not compensated.

But the current action of Yuva Morcha has to be seen a bit differently from the already existing violence initiated by the Hindu fundamentalists. The fact that Modi has come to power has increased the aggressive strength of the Sangh Parivar in many ways. However, in Kerala the Sanghis do not have an electoral strength, though they are gaining steadily because of the lack of understanding of the left as well as due to adequate facilitation for their growth by the Congress. The false campaign of the Sanghis on Love Jihad in Kerala has more or less collapsed, in spite of a mainstream media support. The same experiment was also tried in Karnataka and in recent times, while the politicisation of love on communal terms has been happening in UP today, in an attempt to generate hatred against the minorities.

Apart from the use of identities like Religion and National identity, in recent times the use of Love and Sex as a means of organising a cadre with a communal sense of morality has to be noticed and analysed by the political observers. Unfortunately, what has to be understood is that the morality which is claimed as `Indian’ is in real terms a Victorian morality and in a desperate attempt to transplant this `Indian version of Victorian morality’, boys and girls who sit around in public places are being frequently attacked in many places in Kerala. Quite often, the Hindu fundamentalists have used the mainstream press, police machinery and even members of other political parties (including members of the left parties) to fulfil their agenda. What is important while we observe and analyse all these incidents, a central question comes to the fore: Who sets the agenda?. The Sangh Parivar does not have the electoral strength to compete with Congress or the left parties in Kerala. But they have the capacity to set an agenda to determine the popular consciousness of all institutions including political parties and mainstream media. The reason is simple. They have their own people in all places including political parties like Muslim League!

The recent issue of destruction of the restaurant `Down Town’ in Calicut when the Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which became violent and acted as `moral policemen’ is said to be the result of the work of a committed Sangh Parivar activist working for a Congress channel, “Jai Hind”. This case establishes too well with my argument that without any electoral strength in Kerala, the Sangh Parivar has a capacity to create popular opinion through all indirect means. The case of the fabricated cases on Abdul Nasar Maudany is a typical example. There are many other examples which need not be mentioned here for the time being.

The main argument that I wish to pursue is that the communal violence in India cannot be seen from the perspective of Religion alone. Religion is only an excuse for political mileage. Those who are in the business of communal fascism today, have been using many other areas for such political mileage also. The secular forces in this country unfortunately did not seriously or sufficiently look into the role of culture and its role in shaping politics in India. They focused their attention on religion alone as the source of communalism. And that too was a restricted notion, where many secular people looked at all religious communalism on the same plane. To a certain extent, it may not be wrong to assume that it is this restricted notion on communalism that facilitated Narendra Modi to be in power today, in spite of his role as a Chief Minister of Gujarat in the murder of thousands of Muslims, while most of the victims are fighting for justice even today.

The lessons to be learnt from this piece of history is that when the left and secular forces tried to look at Muslim fundamentalism and Hindu fundamentalism on the same plane, and they missed the boat. The politics of marginalised identities and the human rights of marginalised identities unfortunately was not sufficiently articulated in their political actions, if not in their political agenda. Those who were involved with the human rights issues of the minorities, even articulated it as a problem of the dominance of the upper castes in the leadership of the mainstream left, which led to such a distorted understanding. As far as the issue of `moral policing’ in Kerala is concerned, though the youth wings of the mainstream left forces have also been responsible for moral policing in the past, some of the leaders were brave enough to take a position against moral policing from the incidents which followed the violence on Down Town restaurant. This shift of the mainstream left on the issue of `moral policing’ has to be recognised by the political observers. At least from now onwards, it is expected that the youth wing of the left, the DYFI may not indulge in `moral policing’ activities any more.

In response to the violence which happened in Calicut, it was a group called Free Thinkers which called for the Kiss of Love protest in Cochin. This group is understood to be a youth group essentially exchanging their social opinions through the internet. Perhaps, this was their first public action programme on street. The action was supported by Stree Koottayma (a women’s group in Cochin), Porattam, a section of the left forces, members of the LGBT groups and human rights activists. The original plan was to gather at the Marine Drive. But due to the interventions of the police, the organisers changed their plan to have a demonstration from the Law College to Marine drive in Cochin. But before the demonstration was properly formed, the police arrested the protesters. Thirty three activists were put in Thevara police station without any supply of food, water or tea and were released at night. Women’s activists Elizabeth, Advocate Nandini, Advocate Thushar and many others were in the group. As per the statement of the activists, the behaviour of ASP and SP were obnoxious and some of the members of the group including Advocate Thushar were beaten up by the police after release.

Photo Credit: The Hindu 

At the same time, around ten thousand people had gathered at the Marine Drive.The Sangh Parivar had come with sticks and swords to confront the kissers. They attacked the vehicle of KK Shahina, a well known journalist and assistant editor of Open Magazine, who came to report the event. They did not hear the desperate cries of a frightened child of KK Shahina inside the vehicle, since they had a mission to achieve: To protect Indian culture! Several media persons were also attacked by the Sangh Parivar. The police chose to conduct lathi charge not on those who were initiating violence, but on those who came to express solidarity with the Kiss Protesters through non violent means.. The police conveniently avoided those who came with sticks and swords!

Around sixteen activists who supported the Kiss of Love protest were arrested from Marine Drive. CPI(M) leaders Hasna and Rajesh as well as AIYF national leader Santhosh had expressed support for the Kiss Protest. Muslim Leage women’s group leadership as well as the Muslim League leader and Minister Kunjhalikkutty condemned the Kiss Protest. Minister Kunjhalikkautty had been involved in a sex scandal earlier, popularly known as the Ice Cream Parlour case. However, many Muslim youths supported the Kiss Protest. In real terms the actual kiss which was exhibited on Marine Drive on 2nd November, 2014, was between the Muslim fundamentalists and the Hindu fundamentalists who joined together in their opposition to those who expressed their solidarity with the Kiss Protest! A rare public event of two opposing religious fundamentalists kissing each other against kisses!

The question about the role of media during all these episodes needs to be addressed. It has to be observed that what is debated as `moral policing’ as a social problem in Kerala, is also being conducted by the mainstream media. The authority of the Congress channel to invade into the privacy of two individuals and interpret the visuals for Muslim bashing is the first question to be asked. While the Kiss Protest was supported by a section of the mainstream media in Kerala, another section of media behaved in a voyeuristic manner. From the experiences of the developments in Kerala, it is also important to question the role of that section of media for facilitating `moral policing’.

Among the 33 people who were arrested during the march from the Law College in Ernakulam, when they were released at night, the police physically attacked human rights activist TN Joy, Media activists Subin, Prashant Subramaniam and George Bruno. Activists had organised a protest in front of the Thevara police station where the mainstream media was also present. The police lathi charged the activists for dispersing them. The moral policemen of the Sangh Parivar and the State policemen joined hand in hand with violence against the power of kiss!

On November 7, 2014, around 30 students from Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam expressed solidarity and support for the Kiss of Love protest by initiating a Free Hug campaign in the campus. Ten students who organised the protest were suspended by the Principal of the college. What is obvious is that the Kiss of Love protest has sparked of the imagination of the youth living with moral policing from various sources. The youth in Kerala have decided to express love against the politics of hatred and violence. The power of the youth has proven that neither the State machineries nor the Sangh Parivar and the Muslim fundamentalists can suppress such expressions of love through lathis and swords. For love has more power than lathis and swords!

The main argument against the Kiss of Love protest was that it was not a part of `Indian culture’. Perhaps the Shiv Sena activists and the activists of the Sangh Parivar who came with lathis and swords to deal with those who kissed in Marine Drive should look into their own understanding of Indian culture a little bit more deeply. In this sub continent called India, there was a God called Kaamadeva, which meant the `the God of Erotic Love!’ There are amazing stories and myths revolving around this personality called Kaamadeva. It is in this sub continent called India that Kaama Sutra originated. The Sanghis who are against kissing must go through its pages and read different types of kissing prescribed in Kaamasutra. Kaama existed in this sub continent much before a nation called India was formed. Therefore if you hold on to a limited Victorian understanding of `Indian Culture’ and say that if a few teenagers kiss in Marine Drive, it will be against Indian culture, and they must be manhandled with lathis and swords, such an ideological framework is part of a fascistic suppression of right to love, which is entirely against the culture and traditions in this country.

Photo Credit

The Marine Drive witnessed a large number of diverse sections of people among the ten thousand who gathered. A large section of them were reportedly raising their hands. Please do not mistake me. It was not in support for the protest. They raised their hands with mobile phones to click some photographs of kissing! Those who raised their hands may be from all communities of `for the protest’ `against the protest’ and the `sexually frustrated Keralites’ who wanted some live visuals on their mobile. Some of them had already climbed on buildings and trees and were well prepared for capturing the excitement on their mobile.

Members of a right-wing Hindu outfit attack a group protesting against the ‘Kiss of Love’ event, mistaking them for campaigners of the event, in Kochi on Sunday. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat/The Hindu 

In between several well dressed Youth Congress activists who were against kissing arrived in motor bikes with banners against the Kiss of Love Protest. The Shiva Sena activists saw only the words `Kiss’ and `Love’ and started beating the Youth Congress activists without realising that they were also against the Kiss Protest. But the comic tragedy of the day remains is the attitude of the moral police men to come with lathis and swords! Ultimately for what? To confront those who kiss! If somebody pays me money to produce a comedy feature film on this subject and the series of incidents which happened, I can assure you that the script is already laid.

In the context of developments of a kiss in Down Town Restaurant in Calicut, I was highly amused, surprised and inspired by the group of youngsters in Kerala calling for a Kiss Protest. Perhaps, the context, purpose and the politics of such an action in public was not well articulated in the mainstream, due to various limitations.

The context was the following:

Any romance between a man and a woman or a woman and another woman or a man and another man has been looked down in public spheres. While literature, films, paintings, poetry and sculptures in this country have celebrated romance, the normal life of human beings in this sub continent is more or less restricted from this beautiful experience. You are being told that a `good woman’ or a `good man’ should not indulge in such experiences and if they chose to do so, it should be with a certificate from the institution of your family, after a filthy exhibition of an event called `marriage’. The institution of marriage benefits economic, cultural and social fabric of the mainstream civilisation in many ways. The marriage industry today has to be seen as one of the biggest flourishing industries. It includes dowry, renting of expensive halls and hotel accommodation, purchase of jewellery, expensive sarees, clothes, interior decorations, flower market, video shooting and editing, horses, elephants, traditional or western bands which can include professional singers, participation of film stars who obviously charge for such participation, traditional as well as modern computer astrology, food which is normally served at a higher price, event management business, modern as well as traditional pimping jobs, still photography, industries related to various religions and of course the State which will also get some money as registration fees on marriages along with taxes on all the above expenses. If you look at these obvious as well as many other non obvious sectors which follow, one can assume that this is certainly a huge industry.

A romance after such a luxurious public event can be accepted for the purpose of social welfare. In most of the cases, I find that such romances do not last, but the individuals involved with such exercises are forced to exhibit a face of pretension of romance, as a part of their social responsibility. However, the educated and politically conscious Malayalee will not allow them also to kiss in public even after getting a legal as well as social certificates to kiss. Now this is something which needs some analysis on the behaviour of the educated and politically conscious Keralite. With the recent Kiss of Love protest in Kerala, the Malayalees are trying to learn one basic fact of life, that a kiss can change his or her entire world view upside down! And politically speaking, the kiss stands in direct opposition to the politics of war and hatred, propagated by the communal fascist forces and other political interests in this country.

The flourishing marriage industry is today almost as big as the film industry in Kerala. When cinema halls become unprofitable, they become marriage halls, providing more money for the owners. But what is strange is that the present culture which is exhibited through marriages has nothing to do with the tradition, Indian culture or any religious culture. What the couples are provided is a charity of social permission of indulging in sex. If the sex becomes a rape, such information must be suppressed to protect the honour of the family. Unfortunately, it is this `western’ sexual morality which is being celebrated as `Indian’ morality, not just in Kerala, but also all over India. Europe has more or less surpassed this Victorian morality during the last one hundred years. However, all religious groups and political parties in India tend to hold on to this `ideal western morality’ as their own culture. The religion may be Hindu, but the values on man woman relationship with the social or legal certificate of marriage has to be Victorian! To understand the real meaning of this argument, we have to really explore hundreds of `Indian cultures’ which have nothing to do with the above institutionalised moralism.

I was born in a Nair joint family and this community is today seen as a part of a `Hindu’ tradition. A few centuries back, there was no religious tag to this community. It was only a caste. From my mother’s side, three generations before me, there was no concept of marriages. It was only `Sambandham’ which meant `relationship’. Nairs could have sambandham among themselves as well as between Brahmins and their own community. Both men and women were allowed to have multiple relationships within certain recognised social norms. A Brahmin man could have a sexual relationship with a Nair woman, but a Nair man having a sexual relationship with a Brahmin woman was not allowed. It could become a Love Jihad! Having a Brahmin customer in a Nair house was seen as a matter of pride and honour for the entire joint family.

Occassionally, there were even incidents of such visits of sexual desires of even from the members of the Cochin Maharaja’s family to the families of this OBC caste group called Nairs in Thrissur district in Kerala. If that happens, the honour and the prestige for the family is even more! In sociological terms, this culture was termed `matrilineal’ and not `matriarchal’, though these terms were confused by many in the academic world. The matrilineal joint families existed not just among the Nair communities, but also among some of the Muslim communities in north Kerala.

My maternal grandmother was married, but her elder sister was not. The elder sister used to have `sambandham’. She was a very affectionate lady whom we used to call Muthaachi. In later years, she used to confuse between Burnol and Colgate toothpaste and use it liberally. As a young boy whenever I went to her, she used to kiss me on my forehead. My existence was validated at that moment.

From my father’s side, my grandfather was the first to indulge in a marriage as per the Victorian sexual morality. He was a Brahmin and my father’s mother belonged to a Menon caste. My father, K. Damodaran who was a founder member of the Communist Party of India, never used his caste as a tag on his name. But all other male members in the family used it. Using the caste tag along with your name gives you additional powers in society. Most of the communist leaders right from the beginning used their caste tag along with their names. Since my father did not use the caste tag, many people thought he came from an Ezhava community. The editor of Kaumudi publications which represented the Ezhava community, thinking that he was an Ezhava, told him: `You have been writing too often. You will always have enough space in Kaumudi. We Ezhavas will have to struggle to establish our space in the mainstream media in Kerala’. My mother’s sister’s husband, com. C. Janardhanan also did not use his caste tag for social recognition. But the male members of his family members did not find it a problem in using a caste identity. I am still very curious about these two leaders who belonged to my house on why they never used their caste tag along with their names while most of the communist leaders used caste identities along with their names in their own times.

My father’s mother was too much of an affectionate woman. She had huge breasts which were not covered most of the time when I was a child. As a child, after playing with friends, I used to go to her and play around with her nipples. She used to giggle with her objections in a very fond manner. She used to kiss me on my forehead like my Muthaachi and bless me by saying: `Ende Kunja, Kunjanonnum Undavilla! (My Child, You will Not Have Anything in Life!’). What she meant was that I would not face any health problems again. But what she said really came true! Here I am, living in a small rented place in Bangalore, with no house of my own, no car, motorbike or cycle of my own, not even a still camera of my own after making thirty documentaries, three feature films and two music videos. The blessings of the most affectionate lady in my life really came true! It was a blessing from the first Victorian cultural heritage from my paternal family!

The Nairs, Menons, Brahmins and other upper castes were historically `outsiders’ in the present geographical map of the God’s own country. Once, when I was taking a bus from Thrissur to Bangalore, I was amused by a printed poster stuck on the walls by the Sanghis, saying: `Abolish Foreign Religions like Christianity and Islam’. While the Prime Minister Narendra Modi after playing a crucial role in Gujarat genocide against the Muslims is pretending to be a `secular’ voice, down below, his colleagues are still carrying out a campaign that Muslims and Christians are `foreigners’. But before the Muslims and Christians, the first foreigners were the upper castes created by the Aryan invasion in this sub continent called India. The original settlers of this sub continent were the Adivasis. The other original settlers could also be the fisher folk, who can be best described as sea tribes even in today’s context. The Dravidians in this subcontinent can claim the next claim to the `original settlers’. The rest were invaders. Therefore as a rule, the Hindu upper castes should go out first before the Muslims and Christians from this sub continent called India today, if at all the argument of `foreigners’ is pursued any further.

Once I asked a Sangh Parivar activist over a drink: `What is wrong with you? Why do you hate even ordinary Muslims so much?’ He tried to give some explanations, assuming that he was doing a politically correct job. But after the interactions, I guess he could understand that he based his entire politics on the basis of hatred and not on the basis of love. Probably he might have pretended to understand me, since he did not have much arguments in front of me. I was extremely annoyed by the notion that many of my closest friends may have to move around with `foreign’ visas in their own country, since their very citizenship is getting challenged as an organised campaign by the Sangh Parivar. While the issues of religious minorities have become crucial in India, what is even more important when we look at culture and traditions in India, is to study the rights of the cultures of the `original settlers’ which have been invaded, looted and raped by various cultures in history.

The Adivasis, the indigenous people in India had traditions of marriages, unlike the Nair households. But these marriages were not commercialised institutions and the break ups were discussed by the community without moralistic values attached to it and the marriages did not have Victorian values. In many Adivasi communities, even today, if the elders have to accept a marriage, the lovers should run away for one night and spend their time in the forests. If they were happy about their emotional and sexual relationship, only then the elders will get them married. In some Adivasi societies, the romantic couple will have to run away from their village for three days to get this acceptance from the elders. What is important to note here is that sex comes before the marriage and not the other way around. If sex before marriage is an `Indian tradition’ practised even today, then the question of a `kiss’ need not worry the apostles of `Indian culture’.

Outside the above stated conflict between the industrialised romance and the traditional cultures, the youngsters in India have always dared to indulge in romance without a legal certificate from the State or a social certificate from family and relatives. Such romances are often seen as `underground’ activities or in sociological terms one can refer them as `illegal’ or `smuggling’ activities of love. The smugglers of love may or may not get a social or Government acceptance at a later stage. Many have committed suicide, due to lack of such social or legal certificate for romance. While the martyrs in politics are remembered as well as celebrated in the God’s own country, the martyrs of love are easily forgotten. During the seventies and eighties, the Indian cinema celebrated such romances. In Hindi, the Kamal Hassan starred Hindi super hit feature film `Ek Duje Ke Liye’ directed by K. Balachander was a typical example. Malayalam cinema was flooded with such films on the martyrs of romance.

But the new generation is different. They would either compromise with all conventions and norms looking at the practicalities of life which includes their own personal benefits or they would put up a strong fight. The martyrdom in romance does not seem to impress the new generation today. Therefore Ek Duje ke Liye will not become a hit film today even if it is made with the most appropriate modern cinematic treatment. The teen agers today will easily identify the hero and heroine as stupid fools! However, it may be wise to examine whether in spite of modernisation, the areas of love, sex, marriage etc have become more conventional, modern or radical. Here, we should ask a question, why the hell should more than 10,000 people come to Marine Drive in Cochin, when 33 youngsters give a call for a Kiss Protest. An analysis on the character of these ten thousand people will tell us whether we are moving forward or backward in these questions related to relationships in India.

Among the ten thousand people who came to marine drive in Kochi, there were three categories of people: 1. Those sexually frustrated Malayalees who wanted to watch kissing in live action, 2. Those who supported the protest and 3. Those who were against the protest. At the moment, I do not wish to debate on which section was larger in number, though in politics, the numbers also count apart from your ideological principles. But the question to be pursued is, why the first group assembled there just to watch kissing? To answer this question, we must look into the reasons for the sexual frustrations of the Malayalees.

Unlike the neighbouring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the community life in Kerala disappeared long back in history. The interventions of Christianity as well as Marxism, have played roles to dissipate the strength of traditional communities that lived in village cultures, because both supported modernisation and development without looking into the costs and benefits. More than these interventions, the ordinary Keralite feels inferior to a white phirangi, in spite of his or her higher education and political awareness. This trend was set by Vasco de Gama from the year1498. From that period onwards, several fair skinned modernised Europeans entered Kappad beach in Calicut, which can be said to be the gateway of colonialism in India.

Thus, it was Kerala that opened the gates for colonialism in India. Having proven the superiority by the whites in Kerala, the ordinary Keralite who felt inferior of their own culture left their motherland in search of a `fair and lovely’ deal in life to various foreign countries. Kerala economy is thus run today by the `foreign’ earnings of the Non Resident Keralites (NRKs). In the process, the geographical map of the entire Kerala today appears to be a fusion of a village, town and a cosmopolitan city right from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram, due to the constructions initiated by the NRKs.. The character of a village, town or a city is different in other states. Where communities exist in villages in India, there are some spaces for the teen agers for romances in the fields or during their cultural get together programmes. The only community get together spaces available for a traditional Malayalee teenager is during their visits to temples, churches, mosques or during the marriage ceremonies apart from some festivals. It explains why an educated and politically aware Malayalee has to become more and more conventional. The fields are taken over by the real estate constructions. The beaches and cinema theatres are also as much restricted by the moral policemen as the earlier mentioned spaces. Colleges may provide some relief as much as very few rare cases of beer bars where girls can enter. The sexual frustration of the Malayalee has to be seen within this context.

Why the Keralites are sexually frustrated can have other explanations also. Kerala is a land of coconuts. Coconut is an aphrodisiac. It means, it increases your sexual desires. The food habits of Keralites are surrounded by dishes with coconuts. You can imagine the result. The sexual desire increases, but there are no outlets for a large section of the population. The community systems are broken down where boys and girls can communicate peacefully. The Victorian sexual morality which entered Kerala has been accepted as `the morality’ both by the left and right political forces. Given these conditions, the youth in Kerala is facing serious violations on their right to love due to a large scale sexually frustrated people moving all over in public spaces. A high degree of moral policing could be due to these factors. The police has been harassing the lovers for a long time. Now the television cameras have also started hunting for lovers, like the colonial hunters searching for tigers. In this context, the lovers in Kerala will have no choice but to unite for their right to love. Love is a better answer than hatred propagated by the political parties, especially the Sangh Parivar. Ultimately, there are only two choices for the youth of Kerala today. Either you chop all the coconut trees in Kerala or come out in protest for your right to love!

The above `coconut theory’ of mine can be read either as a satire or as a scientific explanation from medical science. I can accept both types of readings. But the aphrodisiac content in normal food of the Malayalees are much more than the people of the rest of the states of India. They consume sardines which apparently have been described as high aphrodisiac value as well other varieties of fish, drumsticks, drumstick leaves, lady finger, chicken and many other items which have been proven as aphrodisiacs. The problem which arises in this situation is the gap between sexual needs of an average Malayalee and the sexual availability. It is in this context that an average Malayalee becomes more frustrated than others in India. The outlets of such frustrations can be found in art cinema, film societies, poetry, literature, theatre, art and various radical pretentious political spheres as well as different shades of religious fundamentalism. There is also another layer of people in the God’s own country who search for alcohol to deal with their frustrations. After six pegs, the aphrodisiac force in your body gets sufficiently regulated! Kerala is one of the highest alcoholic states in India. At one level, the `Class Struggle’ in Kerala ended up as a `Glass Struggle’. It is also necessary to understand whether there is a connection between the two, apart from the terminological differences of `C’ and `G’? Has Kerala society proved its incapacity to deal with both decently? While the principle of `go slow’ is not observed in the case of `G’ it has been sufficiently observed in the case of `C’.

My humble feeling is that, if ordinary Malayalees are provided with proper spaces for sex, then all these pretentious status of the Keralite on education, culture and politics may vanish into thin air in no time! However, the sexual frustrations of the communally pretentious forces have come out much more in the open, especially in spaces like the face book debates. While opposing the kiss protest, the Sangh Parivar and occasional Muslim fundamentalists have used the filthiest sexist abuses against those who supported the Kiss campaign on many face book groups. For a moment, they even felt that a struggle for the preservation of culture which they upheld, could be achieved by absolute uncultured behaviour in the debates. Those who defended the Kiss Protest also faced physical threats from the Sangh Parivar in the face book debates. It is too funny to analyse what a kiss could do in Kerala!

I do not know if the readers of this article have witnessed dogs indulging in sexual affairs on streets. When two dogs mate, all the other dogs bark at them with hatred and vengeance and sometimes they even try to bite the dogs who are undertaking such holy spiritual and enjoyable experience! The reason for the anger of the dogs is simple: `If I can not get it, why should somebody else get it?’ The psychology behind the behaviour of the Hindu fundamentalists, Muslim fundamentalists and the Youth Congress in Kerala was very much similar. There was only one major difference. The dogs would forget their anger once the act was over. But the human beings in Kerala could not!

The real romantic comedy in the history of sociological and psychological order and disorder in Kerala took place when around ten thousand odd people gathered at the protest site in Marine Drive. The voyeuristic sexually frustrated lot attended the function only to watch people kissing. But the communal fascist layer of people who were even more repressed, felt that their culture would vanish if the youth kissed in public! This layer of sexually repressed fundamentalists were even prepared to beat up the Kiss Protesters, without realising that their culture stood firmly against all such violent actions against any expression of romance. If Sigmond Freud were alive, instead of analysing the sexual instincts of the educated Keralite, he would have laughed himself to death! Fortunately, the third layer of people which included women’s activists, human rights activists, LGBT activists, left activists and even activists from the religious minorities stood firmly to support the campaign.The morality of the God’s country was clearly shaken up with this protest. The ordinary Keralite has started asking a Shakespearean question: `To Kiss or Not to Kiss!’

One fact is very clear: The Kiss of Love protest has confused the average Malayalee on his existing notions of love, sex, gender justice, sexuality and culture. A poet who teaches in a college in UP was once with us during a seminar on culture in Pune a few years back. In the evening, he recited some of his revolutionary poems as well as romantic poems and I played some songs on my flute. The evening was enjoyable with political discussions, poetry and music. I was a bit curious to ask my poet friend: `You write both revolutionary poetry and romantic poetry. How do you find a convergence in both?’ His reply was a deep statement which needs to be remembered. He said: `To me revolution is love and love is revolution!’ I think this explains some of the most fundamental truths of our existence. All revolutions without love have failed and all love without revolutions have failed either openly or with pretensions of adjustments for a social face to be recognised as a couple, almost like the parliamentary politics today. Social acceptance is necessary for the sustenance of both love and revolution. In rare situations, it may not be a precondition, if the players are brave enough!

Most of the religions and spiritualities had love as a key element. Hitler worked primarily on hatred and not on love. The Sangh Parivar also worked primarily with the politics of hatred and not on love. Historical explanations to this mutation of the psyche of the RSS are available in plenty. But what are the spiritual reasons? Lord Shri Krishna as per the myth was a romantic. It is claimed that he had 16008 wives as per the myth. I do not wish to go into the details of his possible of troubles of dealing with such an enormous mass of love. Any leader in today’s people’s movements like Medha Patkar, Abhay Sahoo or SP Uday Kumar will be facing similar problems to provide proper time and attention to those who admire them. Any genuine politician will have limited time to deal with those who love him or her. These are the restrictions of social pressures and the limitations of having only twenty four hours available in a day. But the romantic spiritual hero who was even admired for stealing butter and stealing clothes of women who were bathing for his male gaze, was also a key instrument in the entire Mahabharata war story.

The five of the Pandavas had only one wife – Draupadi or Paanchali. The Pandavas listened to the eldest brother, Dharmaputra, who was known to speak only the truth. But the eldest brother of the Pandavas had a weakness for gambling. He experimented it with the Kauravas where he lost everything. The `true man’ of Mahabharata, not being able to bear the insult, pawned everything till his last property. And that last property was Paanchali. As a democratic person, it was not very clear how he consulted his other four brothers who also had a share of this `property’ whether he could gamble with that last `property’ or not. He did not even consult Paanchali, whether `I can pawn you my dear?’ He lost the game obviously and Paanchali’s saree was getting removed by the Kauravas. She did not ultimately depend on the five husbands because she knew very well that it would be of no use. She called out for Krishna for help. As a true romantic, instead of stealing sarees which he did in his younger days, Lord Krishna protected her by supplying her with enough saree materials. After getting tired of this saree removing ceremony which kept on increasing in length, the Kauravas might have felt that this was a plot by the Kalyan Silks Company in Kerala to defeat them. Paanchali on the other hand, with full of rage of public insult on her as a woman, refused to tie her hair. She told Arjuna that she would tie her hair only with the blood of the Kauravas. The Kshathriya Arjuna had no choice but to go for war. And who was the adviser and what was the advise when Arjuna faced the dilemma that he had to kill his own brothers during the war? Krishna told him that it was Arjuna’s `karma’ and a duty to do so. The rest of the story is only a justification of hatred and revenge in the name of `protection’ of `our woman’.

The Aryan myth of Ramayana had also a similar thread of protection of `our woman’. However, in the name of `protection of our woman’ endless blood was spilled as per the myth. Ram’s father had three wives, but he was not a Muslim as per the myth. Ram’s father, King Dasaratha did not have children in spite of having three wives and in those days there was no Viagra. He did not go for even traditional remedies and instead he went for a `tapas’ (Meditation) and the God gave him a magic potion to be given to his wives. The wives consumed it and acquired three children: Ram, Lakshman and Shatrugnan. The myths on Ramayana does not explicitly state whether Ram was born out of this magic potion alone or an additional quantity of King Dasaratha’s semen was also needed. In any case, from what we can gather from the Puranas, it may be safe to assume that these children might have had difficulties in pointing out their father when they were playing with friends: Whether their father was God, the magic potion or King Dasaratha.

There is a difference between the wars of Mahabharata and Ramayana which are seen as Puranas in Indian culture and spirituality. The Mahabharata was a war among the Kshatriyas. But the war in Ramayana was between the Kshatriyas and Asuras/Rakshassas. Asuras and Rakshassas have been terminologies used by the Aryans against the Dalits and Adivasis of this subcontinent. In real terms, it is the culture of these communities in India which has been threatened by the upper caste Aryanhood in India. Therefore, any discourse on culture and tradition, must begin from here, from these indigenous communities. The rest is either invaded or appropriated.

What is most interesting is that the Sangh Parivar which started the war against the Kiss of Love protest with sticks and swords, is in no mood today to continue the war. The BJP leadership has openly stated that they were not against the Kiss of Love protest. But they have not explained why the Sangh Parivar initiated a war against love with sticks and swords in Kerala. The premises of such a war was based on a set of interpretations of culture and traditions. Perhaps it may also be worthwhile to analyse the wars of Mahabharata and Ramayana properly in this context if these myths which are seen as the essence of Indian culture and traditions in the public minds.. The wars of Mahabharata and Ramayana were not fought for territorial rights like the war between India and Pakistan over an unoccupied space where nothing grows, called Kargil. They were not fought for the territorial rights of the Mac Mohan line, which was the reason for the Indo Chinese war during 1962, again a set of waste land where nothing grew. They were not fought like the Iraq war or the Vietnam war or dozens of wars initiated by the American imperialism, where the assumption was that `we have the right to decide on how you should behave in your territory.’ In contrast to the modern wars, the wars propagated by the myths of Puranas were fought for one basic right: `To protect the honour of our woman!’. Here, the notion of `our woman’ got extended or got equated as territorial property rights during a war. At the same time, the irony is that the activists of the Sangh Parivar, who uphold the traditions of `honour of our woman’ in Mahabharata and Ramayana were also responsible for destroying the same `honour’ of various minority communities in Kandhamal, Mazaffarnagar, Gujarat and dozens of other places. It is here, where the loud speakers on Indian culture and traditions become an expression of cultural fascism in India.

If the argument of the fundamentalists is that the private display of intimacy through kissing is acceptable, while it can not be acceptable in public, then it can become a major burden for the tourism industry in Kerala. The Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will be forced to put up boards in Kovalam, Varkala, Kuttanad, Bekal and other tourism spots that the public display of kissing is prohibited in the God’s Own Country. In case the tourists are beaten up by the fanatics, it can even become an international issue. In addition, sufficient display of such boards banning kissing must be exhibited in all the air ports also, since people kiss regularly in all air ports during departures as well as arrivals. I do not think that the Tourism Ministry in Kerala can undertake such a drastic step. In that case, both the Muslim League and the Congress are expected to explain their positions on this issue. Is it that the white foreigners can kiss in public in Kerala while the dark skinned locals should be banned from such actions? Both the Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the Minister Kunjhalikkutty are expected to explain this contradiction before the public in Kerala. Are there two different sets of human rights for two different sets of people?

Kiss of Love protest in JNU, Delhi Photo Credit

The rays of hope for the future lie on the fact that the Kiss of Love protest, however loosely planned and executed, received immense support from all over the country and abroad. The youth of Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi and many other places found the protest inspiring and conducted their own protests in their own areas. Today, the youth are planning such protests in different parts of the country. The activists in Calicut have called for such a protest on December 7, 2014. One fact is awfully clear from all these developments: The ultimate fight is between love and war in India today. Right to Love is a Fundamental Right. Lovers in this country are left with no option but to unite! They have nothing to lose, but the chains of moral policemen controlled by the fascists! The ultimate fight against fascistic hatred will be with the politics of love! Hence the slogan for the youth must be `Make Love, Not (sanghpari)War’! Remember the old lines of the Hindi song: `Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya?’ What is there to fear when you love?

K.P Sasi is an award winning film director and a political activist. He is also an Associate Editor of He can be reached at [email protected]