By Ramesh Babu
Kochi, November 02, 2014: The much-hyped ‘kiss of love’ campaign to protest against growing moral policing has fizzled out after the police rounded up 50-odd activists who were planning to march towards Marine Drive, the venue of the event. The police detained the organisers and sympathisers, including women, even before they could reach the venue of the symbolic protest against moral policing.
Just as the march began at around 4pm, the police team led by DCP (Law and Order), R Nishantini, took the organisers and sympathisers into custody and bundled them into a police van as they raised slogans against moral policing.
Though the organisers had claimed that 5,000 activists would take part in the event many pro-kiss activists backed out at the eleventh hour fearing violence. Since morning many anti-kiss drive activists had swarmed Marine Drive and assembled at vantage points insisting that they won’t allow the event come what may.
The police resorted to a mild lathi-charge to disperse the crowd that attacked two motor-cyle borne pro-kiss activists. At least eight protesters and media personnel were injured in the ensuing scuffle. Traffic was disrupted for more than two hours.
Despite the police arresting them minutes before their march to the venue, pro-kiss activists claimed that their campaign was a run-away hit. “We succeeded in sending a strong message throughout the country that moral policing is worse than voyeurism. We got unprecedented support from many quarters. It is a strong warning to moral police,” said N Nandini, one of the activists.
Earlier, protesters on Sunday blocked roads leading to Kochi’s Marine Drive, the venue for ‘Kiss of Love’ — a mass-kissing campaign against alleged moral policing by right-wing groups.
The port city remained tense with suspected members of the Shiv Sena, Samastha Sunni Students Federation and other activist groups saying they would not let the event take place.
Around 1,000 policemen were deployed to prevent any untoward incident as those supporting the drive planned to march to the venue by 5:00pm.
The campaign was launched on social media after a coffee shop in north Kerala’s Kozhikode city was vandalised recently by a group of people who criticised the public display of affection by some couples there.
A day after the Kerala high court refused to intervene, the organisers said on Sunday they would go ahead with the protest, even as they were yet to get permission from the police.
Though the police had denied permission for the event, they said they would only intervene if it created a law and order problem.
Stressing that it was "not a kiss fest" but a gathering of like-minded people to raise awareness against moral policing, the organisers said they would next focus on creating awareness about the deadly AIDS.
’Free Thinkers’, a Facebook group organising the programme, expected about 700-1000 people would participate.
"There is no question of backtracking. The protest will be held as scheduled at 5pm at the venue with participants holding placards," Rahul Pasupalan, IT professional and short film maker and Jijo Kuriakose, a researcher and members of ’Free Thinkers’ had told reporters earlier in the day.
On Saturday, the organisers had received a shot in the arm with the Kerala high court refusing to interfere with the event after the state government assured action would be taken in the event of any illegal activities. Two petitions seeking to prohibit the event was disposed by the court recording the government’s submission.
"This is not a kiss fest. It is a gathering of like minded people to protest against moral policing. We are independent thinkers and this is a gathering of the Facebook users," they said, adding young and old couple, parents and youngsters were all welcome to participate in the event, which is a platform to protest against moral policing.
Pasupalan said though they approached police four days back with a request for permission to conduct the event, they were yet to receive any intimation allowing or denying permission.
Pointing out that kissing and hugging was only a form of agitation they had chosen to raise awareness against moral policing, Rahul said it was precisely due to the novel form of protest they had adopted that so much heat had been generated.
"Isn’t everyone talking about the event?" he asked.
"Because we selected this form of protest, everyone is discussing it. We want to create an awareness against moral policing," they said.
Jijo Kuriakose said the group would next focus their attention on creating awareness about the deadly AIDS.
Interestingly parallel to the ‘kiss fest’ a slew of other protests are expected to take place near the venue. Leading Malayalam literary critic M Leelavathy and Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany are among the main participants expected to join a parallel protest event being organized by the Kerala Students’ Union, student wing of the Congress.
The campaign was launched on social media after a coffee shop in north Kerala’s Kozhikode city was vandalised last week by a group of people who criticised the public display of affection by some couples there.
The attack came after a news channel owned by a political party carried a report on October 23 with visuals of “immoral activities” allegedly taking place at the establishment, showing young couples kissing and embracing.