By Aashna Sheth
Edited by Namrata Caleb, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
The ‘Kiss of Love’ campaign, which took place this month in Delhi and Kochi has sparked controversy and stimulated a vociferous debate regarding the youth and the concept of moral policing in India. The campaign, which originated in Kochi has gained momentum through social media and is slowly spreading to different parts of the country with the active participation of the youth and varsity students who have decided to speak up, raise their voice and express their opinions against moral policing.
The first question we need to ask however is what is moral policing, and more specifically what does moral policing in India constitute? The term ‘Moral Police’ refers to a vigilante group, which acts to enforce a code of morality. When looked at from the Indian perspective, it refers to targeting any activity, which is considered immoral, or against Indian culture. Recently, when a coffee shop in Northern Kerala was ransacked to prevent the Public Display of Affection (PDA), the youth in Kochi decided to organize a mass kissing campaign to protest against moral policing. In a country like India, where even holding hands in public or engaging in any form of PDA is considered immoral or ‘un-Indian’ (several couples are reprimanded on Valentine’s Day every year), the ‘kissing campaign’ has been looked at as a rather bold step, wherein the youth has fearlessly come out on the streets holding posters which state ‘Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya?’
This campaign highlighted the bold, confident and fearless spirit of the youth as they came and fought for a cause they believed in. In a move which has been revered and looked at as the youth lashing out its frustration against the archaic or orthodox practices of these vigilante groups, the question we need to ask is a crucial one; what are the impacts of such a movement in India? It can invariably be argued that moral policing in India sometimes takes it too far, and when living in the largest democracy in the world, people should be allowed to express their affection for one another. It’s not only the moral police, but also passersby or onlookers who look at these couples with a sense of disgust and shock. Young college students have come out and said that in a society where there’s so much immorality which is practiced under the guise of ‘traditional practices’ (for eg: honor killings, child marriage), or where item songs which objectify women are now commonplace in any mainstream Bollywood film, or where it’s even okay to ‘piss but not kiss in public’, this campaign showcases an important step wherein the voice of the youth must be heard and acknowledged. By engaging in this practice publically in the form of a protest, the implicit message the youth is trying to project is that PDA is okay and India should move forward with the changing times and restrict or reduce moral policing in the country.
Although moving forward with the times and being allowed to freely profess affection is essential it’s also imperative to ask another pressing question; is India ready for such a bold step? In a country where even kissing on screen was considered a taboo up until a few years ago, any display of affection in public is wholeheartedly frowned upon. The Indian society looks at this situation from a very different perspective than the youth who is protesting; the display of affection in any form or aping different aspects of the western culture is not looked upon favorably. More so, it is also important to note that these protests are being conducted mainly by students in large metropolitan cities in an urban milieu where they are exposed to western culture, the media and are educated about what they should and should not engage in. Yet, they have faced the flak of different groups, which threatened the organizers while some protestors in Kerala were even arrested. Some leaders expressly stated that they were not against the concept of love; they simply said that the youth should not engage in activities, which are against Indian practice and tradition.
Thus what is the solution to this pressing dilemma? This issue, much like any other issue which borders on the concept of traditional practices, morality and ethics presents itself as a double-edged sword. This campaign has gained impetus and spread across different parts of the country thereby increasing its importance and impact and several colleges have followed suit and have started spreading awareness about this campaign on social media. Although it has managed to reach out to a large number of people and attempted to convey its message, a momentary movement fueled with zeal for a limited period of time is not enough. It is also extremely essential to alter the mindsets of the people and make them more open and accepting of changes while keeping in mind India’s socio-cultural fabric. The overall acceptance of such a concept cannot take place overnight. It requires, time, effort and people who are willing to listen to what the youth has to say; maybe then we’ll be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel as we envision a more open minded and accepting India.
 Moral Policing (Date accessed: 9th November 2014), <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_police#Valentine.27s_Day>
Aashna Sheth is a 2nd year law student at Government Law College in Mumbai. She believes that the best form of expression is writing. She is an avid reader and deems it essential to keep abreast with recent developments. Hoping to become a successful lawyer some day, she also plays the piano and speaks fluent French. She can be reached at:[email protected].