Sunday, November 9, 2014

With the #KissOfLove protesters

The #KissOfLove movement began in Kerala after VHP hooligans enforced moral policing at a cafe. It would have certainly remained a localized protest if the local Congress government in the state had not used the police against the rather radical protesters. With the police brutality that followed, the fire had to spread and it came calling right to the heart of it all - the RSS headquarters in New Delhi. There, the government (which was the Union Government) had the good sense to use the police only to maintain peace between protesters and counter-protesters and not to take any stand. Chandy, clearly, has much to learn.

The Kiss of Love Movement is not some Western-backed charade to attack Indian culture, as elements in the Sangh would have us believe. It is very much a product of a new India. What the RSS and its affiliates must understand is that the year 1991 changed India fundamentally. It was nothing short of a partition between generations - an entire generation has now grown up free of the all-powerful socialist state and exposed to the winds of liberty. These are the Children of 1991, who have a very different conception of the role of the state and who reject the idea that morality can be rejected. And the Children of 1991 are now the amorphous youth who even the RSS will acknowledge are the future of the country. Rather, the country's future is their's.

The RSS must reform itself and the first thing it needs to do is to induct more Children of 1991 into itself. A social organization cannot afford to lose touch with the realities of society, the fact that attitudes towards women have changed. It is telling that pictures of the protests and counter-protests in Delhi have one stark reality - the counter-protests had almost no women in comparison to the Kiss of Love protesters. These were women who, from another generation would've believed that a woman's place is at home, dutifully caring for her husband and children and quietly baring domestic physical and sexual abuse to save the honor of the family. That generation is gone and gone forever and if the RSS does not update itself to the new realities, it too will be gone and gone forever.

The fundamental mistake that these Sangh operatives that indulged in moral policing is to think that Narendra Modi's spectacular win was an endorsement for them. It was not - it was quite the opposite. Modi's win was an endorsement of everything that 1991 stood for: liberty, economic and social freedom, social mobility and individual freedom. It was on the themes of economic prosperity, social freedom and individual growth that the campaign was built on and won. Had Modi, who has always kept the RSS at an arm's length from the state, used the Sangh's themes, he would've been obliterated and UPA-III would have happened. The Sangh must not miss this important fact and must reform itself.

As for the Kerala Government, the Congress party is well-known to be one that wears a mask: liberal in words, devoid of any principle in action. Nothing else can be expected from it: while Ajay Maken will pooh-pooh the RSS in Delhi, Oomen Chandy will go two steps ahead of them in clamping down on freedom in Kerala. Anyone who truly accepts the right-wing state however, will stand with the Kiss of Love protesters: not because they agree with them, but because they believe that others can disagree with them. 

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