There’s an old adage that history repeats itself, first time as a tragedy and then as a farce. This was what I was reminded of, when Kiss In The Street demonstration against moral policing was dealt with force by both the police and right wing extremists in the streets of Calicut. Before that, Kiss Of Love, was suppressed the same way on 2nd of November at Cochin. Students of Maharajas College, Ernakulam were suspended following the Hug of Love – Maharajas demonstration.
It hasn’t been long since a restaurant in Calicut got vandalized by a mob who claimed themselves to be the vanguards of culture and tradition. The violence was instigated by a video footage aired by a private television channel, claiming instances of immoral activities. Intriguingly, the alleged immoral activity was men and women kissing each other!
The violence at Calicut was not the first instance. In 2011, a 26-year-old youth was killed by a mob in Kodiyathur, Kerala, for allegedly having an affair with a married woman.In June 2014, a female theatre artiste and her male colleague were detained in police custody for traveling together at night.In July 2013, police arrested a couple from a beach in Alappuzha for suspected “immoral activity” as the woman was not wearing any accessories to suggest that she was married. In April 2013, an artist from Kochi was harassed by two policewomen when she went for a stroll on Marine Drive with a male friend. In June 2012, a gang of men attacked and beat up a pregnant woman sitting alone in a bus shelter in. The woman’s husband had asked her to rest while he went to a nearby ATM since she was heavily pregnant. In June 2011, An IT professional, on her way to work at Kochi’s IT park, was accosted by a group of drunken men because she was riding pillion on a male colleague’s bike. The drunken men argued with her, and then abused and slapped her. Several similar cases have been reported throughout Kerala. In most of these instances, and many more unreported, the police was taking the side of the moralists and at least in some cases they themselves were becoming that.
These instances were of blatant violations of fundamental rights of the citizens. The article 21 of the constitution stipulates that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. I The right to personal liberty also includes the right to move freely and mingle with the fellow beings, as was noted in 1999 case of Common Cause vs Union of India and many others. Moral policing thus transcends the status of a penal offense and becomes a public menace, violating the very fundamental rights of citizens.
This was what gave birth to this novel mode of protest, where men and women were called to come out and express their protest against this growing menace of moral policing. It was completely in a legitimate manner. Clause (1) (a) of the Article 19 of the Constitution of India confers to all its citizens the freedom of speech and expression. And expression, may be by word of mouth,writing, printing, picture,or electronic media, or in any other manner (addressed to the eyes or ears). And clause (1) (b) Guarantees the freedom of citizens to assemble peaceably and unarmed.
The police, but was seen arresting the activists, and often beating them brutally, and they said that they did so to prevent violence. This invokes some questions. Was that justifiable?
Renowned jurist Dicey,in his ‘Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1897)’ says,
“No meeting which would not otherwise be illegal becomes unlawful because it will excite opposition which is itself unlawful, and thus will indirectly lead to a breach of the peace. The plain principle is that A’s right to do a lawful act, namely walk down the High Street, cannot be diminished by X’s threat to do an unlawful act, namely to knock A down.”
And the Supreme Court of India has made it clear in Justice K Shetty’s judgment in
S. Rangarajan Etc vs P. Jagjivan Ram (1989 SCR (2) 204, 1989 SCC (2) 574) that
“Freedom of expression cannot be suppressed on account of threat of demonstration and processions or threats of violence. That would tantamount to negation of the rule of law and a surrender to black mail and intimidation. It is the duty of the State to protect the freedom of expression since it is a liberty guaranteed against the State. The State cannot plead its inability to handle the hostile audience problem. It is its obligatory duty to prevent it and protect the freedom of expression”.
One could reasonably conclude that the police actions were definitely against the interests of our constitution. It was how the law students of Government Law College, Kozhikode (CALICUT) decided to organise Hug of Love – Calicut Law College, a demonstration inside the campus. discussions, debates, researches and finally we’ve made it! Though I missed the event, I feel proud of my alma mater!
Hugs of love comrades. 🙂