It was a unique case of a state government ensuring that a bunch of youngsters kissed in peace at a public place, that too in front of TV cameras. The Kiss of Love protesters started gathering on the Kochi promenade right from 2 pm to lend their lips to the protest against Shiv Sena's moral policing act the previous day. On Wednesday, the state watched in shock as cane-wielding Sena men chased away young boys and girls from the Marine Drive. The police seemed to be tenderly looking over the goons as they went about swinging their canes and chasing away hapless couples who were 'causing serious damage to morality.'
The Kiss of Love protesters started off with a street play. There was a painting event before the kisses started blooming. The police, which had drawn flak for failing to control the menacing and intimidating Sena men the previous day, took no chances this time. They had stepped up deployment and plainclothes men were out to spot Sena sympathizers. An inspector-general of police supervised security.
The Hindu right wing group, which deems itself the self-appointed guardians of Hindu culture and tradition, has often employed violent ways of shaming to prevent people from 'deviating' from 'Indian' ways of life. But, the audacity of the Sena in trying to dispense crude justice in a CPM-ruled state could be an indicator of its larger game plan. Political observers see it as a calculated long-term move to get a foothold in the state. For, the Sena had long been trying to be a force on its own rather than being the street-pounding infantry of the BJP.
In a sense, the Sena achieved what it wanted. It was seen and heard. That the Sena wanted full media glare was evident from the fact that all news channels had been informed of the Marine Drive 'cleansing' well in advance. Also, the Sena men arrested by the police were far from remorseful. At the police station, they waved and smiled in front of TV cameras like astronauts emerging from a reentry capsule.
The Shiv Sena, translated as the army of Shivaji, has a history of creating blitzkriegs to gain media glare and public attention. The far-right outfit has of late been actively trying to rope in the youth in Kerala, especially those from economically weaker sections of society in the rural and semi-urban pockets. The organization's mission statement says it is involved in 80 percent social work and 20 percent politics. To complement this, the Sena had been deftly positioning itself at the forefront of 'social action.' The Sena runs a free ambulance service for the indigent and organizes blood donations to garner goodwill.
It is but reassuring to note that the Sena is still not a force to reckon with in Kerala society. Also, it is high time the Sena understood that the people of a literate state with Europe-like health indices would not trade their freedom for a restrictive ideology gift-wrapped in random acts of goodwill, like free rides to the hospital in a Sena ambulance.