CHENNAI: A lot of hugs, many, many kisses on many, many cheeks and a few barely glimpsed, fleeting, now seen-now gone pecks on the lips - that is how IIT-Madras’ students registered their protest against the disturbing trend of moral policing in the country.
In what would have been a striking protest had it been held on the crowded beach of the Marina, or the bustling streets of T Nagar perhaps, 70-odd students gathered in front of the Himalaya Mess on their campus, sang songs, made a few speeches and then got up and hugged, kissed and pecked on record their stand on the issue.
But the ‘Celebrating Love’ event was not a ‘protest’, pointed out organisers. “This is not like the ‘Kiss of Love’ protests. That took place to take a stand against the incident in Kochi. We took this opportunity to express solidarity with the protestors. But, this is about celebrating love,” said Arya Prakash, a member of the Chitabar Independent Student Collective, which organised the event.
So, what exactly was Chitabar trying to do? Well, to shouting a resounding ‘No’ to moral policing was the obvious answer. “But, we also wanted to open up a discourse on the subject among our students’ body. A discourse on relationships, love, sex and sexuality among students is necessary if this is to stop,” declared Prakash.
Reform not Revolution?
The event did not completely escape the frowning eyes of society though, even on what could be termed as one of the more progressive campuses in the region. Barely seconds had passed after an initial round of hugs and kisses when a group of ‘progressive’ students showed up on the lawn.
“Why would you do something like this to protest? There are many other ways to do this. We may understand because we are educated but how will India, out there?” asked a red-faced young man. His compatriot had earlier started to stop Prakash, making the initial statement before he thought better of it.
“There were people cheering when you did ‘this,” he added to Prakash. “That is what you are celebrating. How will people understand whether this is love or lust?,” asked another.
“We are not against public display of affection, they can do what they want. We are just saying they are going too fast. We are for reform too, but they are for revolution,” concluded Anish Bhagwat, another member of the group.