We had written about the student movement in Kolkata a couple of months back. While a lot of us had come to the conclusion that the movement was over and would come to nothing, the student community has proved us wrong once again. The movement goes on, only now it has become a clarion call against everything that is wrong in the Indian society, taking it well beyond the simple issue of asking for the resignation of an incompetent Vice Chancellor, a stooge to the powers that be in West Bengal.

This weekend Kolkata, a city full of contradictions, witnessed something never ever seen before on its streets. A group of young people made a human chain in front of the police station close to the university. They did not shout slogans, they did not sing songs. They just kissed each other. A kiss of comradeship, a kiss of protest. While the hapless police force stood around not knowing what to do and pedestrians gawked or snickered or looked away, the participants just concentrated on giving the kiss of life, of derision, of anger and above all protest, to a patriarchal and hypocritical society. A society where molestation and rape are daily incidents, where women are harassed physically and verbally as a matter of course, where unspeakable acts take place behind barred windows in posh and respectable localities.

Yes, this is an unprecedented protest movement that is attempting to strike a blow against the very fundamentals of the Indian society. A society that proscribes everything that is fundamental to human nature and condones everything that is abnormal. There can be no public demonstration of love in the Indian society – that needs to take place behind closed doors. The Minister for Education of West Bengal declared that if young people really have ‘impulses’, they need to ‘indulge’ in them in the privacy of their homes. Impulses? Indulgence? For something that is as natural as the sun rising and setting? As seasons following each other? As the love between a man and a woman? Well yes, that is what the Indian society is like. Where the police makes regular raids in the few secluded places in the city, arresting couples for ‘indecent public exposure’. Their crime – holding hands or kissing or sitting with their arms entwined around each other. For believe me, you can’t go beyond that in the city with a thousand eyes and ears. Lovers condemned to snatching a few moments of intimacy braving the roving eyes and the patrols of the moralist police or the vigilante gangs constantly on the prowl – not to prevent serious assault and rape, but to harass those who seek some privacy and intimacy against all odds.

So back to the Kiss and Rebel movement that sort of fits seamlessly with the earlier movement by the students that was titled ‘hok kolorob’ – let there be noise. Yes, they are hell bent on making noise, these young students, and their voices are being heard, far and wide, all over the world. They are apolitical, these protestors, that make them unique. They are technologically savvy, using the social media and the internet to make their protest heard in real time, also unique. This is probably the first time in the history of student movement in India that the causes of a relatively small student community are taken up all over the world. They have moved ahead, only as students can, of narrow local interests and made the movement universal. They are protesting against established social order, against the fundaments of an incredibly reactionary society that curbs, sanctions and punishes what is natural in man.

The worldwide student movements that swept the entire Western world in 1968 changed a lot of things – mainly the concept of freedom of individuals. The freedom to live and love, the freedom to give voice to protest, the freedom to choose. Those movements had only a very marginal impact on India, if at all. The kiss and rebel movement is homegrown, and may bring in important changes in the society. If it is followed, if it is supported by the youth in India. And by others.

A kiss is the ultimate form of pure love, whatever the nature of the relationship. A kiss seals a moment of unadulterated love, of understanding, of sharing. A kiss cannot be considered as carnal, as vulgar, as wanton. Those who condemn the act of kissing are not human. They need to be stamped out. So make your kiss an act of protest, an act of love, an act of friendship and do it publicly. Let us raze the prisons to the ground.

[Picture: Ronny Sen]


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