Guest Post by Vasundhara Jairath and Bonojit Hussain
In the first of its kind in India, youth in Kochi launched a campaign called ‘Kiss of Love’ to challenge the moral policing of the Hindu Right. While that protest was attacked by right wing thugs and suppressed by the police, this form of protest has since spread to different parts of the country like Hyderabad, Bombay and Calcutta. Today, the ‘Kiss of Love’ protest was held at nowhere short of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) head office in New Delhi. A few individuals took the initiative and gave a call for this protest on Facebook with the title, ‘Sanghi Gunde Hoshiyar, Tere Samne Karenge Pyaar’ (Sanghi thugs beware, we will love in front you).
Within a day of giving this call on Facebook, self-professed RSS-affiliated cadres began trolling the Facebook event page. These trolls splashed the phone numbers and other personal details of the organisers all over the internet calling out to fellow right wingers to call, threaten and intimidate the organisers, who received death threats and threats of sexual assault throughout last night. Over 1000 abusive and threatening comments and messages were posted within 24 hours. Bajrang Dal on Facebook gave an open call to attack the protestors. While they deemed the proposed protest as going against Indian culture, they made repeated threats to sexually assault women leaving little to the imagination of the place of women in their version of Indian culture. While most comments are not worth repeating here, below is a sample of one of the most sanitised threats on the Facebook event page:
“मित्रों ये फर्जी पेज है इसे ज्यादा गंभीरता से लेने की जरूरत नहीं है, किसी मूर्ख ने इसे अफवाह फैलाने के लिए बनाया है, कृपया आप लोग क्रोधित होकर किसी को गाली ना दें, आप सोच भी कैसे सकते हो कोई दिल्ली जैसे शहर में ऐसा करने की हिम्मत जुटा सकता है, एक बात सदा याद रखना मित्रों हमारी दिल्ली कल भी हिंदुत्व का सबसे बड़ा गढ़ थी आज भी है और कल भी रहेगी , अगर ऐसा होता भी है तो यहाँ ऐसा करने वालों का क्या हाल होता है कल आप लोग देखेंगे, चिंता करने की कोई बात नहीं है वो कोई ऐसी वैसी जगह नही है बल्कि दिल्ली मेट्रो का स्टेशन है, जिसकी सुरक्षा हमारे CISF के देशभक्त सैनिक करते हैं, वहां रंडापा मचाने वालो का पिछवाडा तोड़ दिया जाता है , जहाँ बिना CISF की मर्जी के परिंदा भी पर नही मार सकता, सोचो वहां इन लौंडो व रंडियों का क्या हाल होगा, वैसे किसी भी अफवाह को देखते हुए आज ही सूचित कर दिया गया है CISF वालों को बाकी का नजारा कल आप लोग न्यूज़ चैनलों पर देखना …”
Friends this is a fake page, there is no need to take this page very seriously. Some fool has made this page to spread rumours, please do not get angry and curse people here. How can any one even think that they can dare to have the courage to do such a thing in a city like Delhi. Remember, one simple thing friends, our Delhi was a fortress of Hinutva yesterday, it is so today, and it will remain so tomorrow. Even if someone tries to do something, you will see what happens to them, so there is nothing to worry about. The venue where they say they will gather is not some ordinary plae. It is a metro station. The security of the metro station is in the hands of our patriotic CISF soldiers, Anyone doing anything slutty there will have their backsides broken. Without the CISF’s say so, not even a bird can flap its wings here. Think what fate can befall these sluts and their toy-boys. In any case, keeping all the rumours in mind, we have informed the CISF soliders already. What else can we say – wait and see what happens tomorrow on the news channels.
Even at such short notice 300 to 400 people turned up for the protest, including students, researchers and young teachers of Delhi University, JNU, Jamia Milia Islamia, Ambedkar University and scores of other concerned citizens. The reason this protest spread to so many different parts of the country so quickly is precisely because the Hindutva right wing custodians of ‘Indian culture’ and their aggressive moral policing have become increasingly emboldened. It is worth mentioning here that the ABVP, the student wing of the RSS, recently launched a campaign in the Delhi University campus against “Love Jehad” and the “menace of live-in relationships” as they go counter to “Indian culture”.
While protestors began gathering at the Jhandewalan metro station located close to the RSS office, a group of right wingers calling themselves the Hindu Sena staged a counter protest holding up slogans saying: ‘Pyar karo par apni sanskriti ke anusar’ [Love but within the limits of y(our) culture] and ‘Pashchimi sabhyata vaapas jao’ (Western culture go back), because as is common knowledge, the Kamasutra comes from Western culture. As the protestors attempted to move towards the RSS office, they were blocked off by the Delhi Police in the front. The custodians of morality came from behind at the group of protestors with growing aggression, blocking them and engaging in scuffles with protestors every now and then. Despite aggression from all sides that continued for over an hour, protestors managed to come together to collectively sing popular songs of love like ‘Pyar kiya toh darna kya’, ‘Khullam khulla pyar karenge’ and ‘Pyar hume kiss mor pe le aaya’. A breather came for the protestors while RSS cadres retreated, and some police officials went conspicuously missing. Some of us found out that the two parties were actually locked in a discussion behind the metro station.
While the RSS cadre returned in a renewed attack to enter the center of the gathering, they were pushed back out and in a surprise move, the protest quickly took to the main road. In the midst of the pushing and pulling between the police, the media, hungry for its photo of a kiss, and RSS goons, the sudden and swift move to the wide roads of Karol Bagh led to a huge round of cheer amongst the protestors. We sang, we cheered, raised slogans, held hands, clapped, and laughed as we ran past the weak human chains of the police, who for once we outnumbered. Arriving at Rani Jhansi Chowk protestors gathered to form a huge circle, blocking off most traffic at the busy intersection. Couples came together in loving embrace to kiss each other. As the programme comenced, two plainclothes men claiming to be policemen with no ID arrived in the center and grabbed two men who had just kissed and dragged them across the entire intersection when they were finally released from their grip. Despite one more raging attack of RSS goons, the protest ended with another song: ‘Woh humare geet kyun rokna chahate hain’ (Why do they want to silence our songs). While the RSS cadres stood frustrated in one corner channelising their anger against a mere expression of love in slogans, telling Western culture to go back and what not, the protestors walked away, continuing to sing and cheer and laugh and kiss. The protest finally ended after the police forcefully escorted protestors in the long walk to R.K. Ashram metro station.
Vasundhara Jairath and Bonojit Hussain are activists with New Socialist Initiative (NSI)