What Is Love? Police Don’t Hurt Me
India has a complex relationship with love – a love-hate relationship, if you will, where the balance between love and hate is constantly shifting.
Love stories fall in our top-5 obsessions – along with cricket, politics, taking offence, and inventing conspiracy theories. Not only are we home to the Kamasutra, but also the erotic temples of Khajuraho, and iconic love stories like those of Radha-Krishna and Jodha-Akbar.
Popular cinema has learnt, albeit slowly, to embrace on-screen romance. Gone are the days when flowers were used as a metaphor for kissing in Hindi movies, or even the awkward, momentary, and borderline cringe-worthy lip-locking scenes. Passionate and steamy romance is now a part and parcel of Bollywood.
Yet, while we idolize love in mythology, history, and popular media, we shun overt expressions of love in real-life. Married couples are often harassed for kissing in public as the police cite public indecency laws. This phenomenon even trickles down to the domestic level, where in households it is common for parents to argue in front of their children, while reserving affection for the bedroom. We were surprised to find that very few of our friends have ever seen their parents kiss. The message it sends is that love is dirty keep it private, but heated arguments are socially acceptable.
Last week, the Mumbai police harassed 40 couples in private hotels in a mass raid that hit headlines. Forget drug abuse, drunk-driving, or human-trafficking, because consensual sex between adults is apparently the single largest threat to public safety and security. This incident unfortunately re-affirms that the ‘hate-to-love’ brigade is getting stronger by the day.
Not long ago Hindu Mahasabha tried to ban Valentine’s Day, and even threatened to forcibly marry couples whom they found engaging in romantic activities. The RSS, BJP’s overlord, has repeatedly encouraged its members to target young unmarried couples to prevent the ‘corruption’ of Indian culture. Kiss of Love, sparked by the BJP Youth Wing’s attack on a young couple in Kerala, was a creative and peaceful protest that gained national traction with people taking to the streets and kissing each other.
While unmarried consensual couples can expect the police to beat down doors and meddle with their private affairs, abusive married men can rest easy since Indian courts do not recognise marital rape as a crime. Unmarried women have the right to give consent, though it’s considered indecent in the eyes of public authority. Married women on the other hand implicitly provide life-long consent when tying the knot, which is acceptable in the eyes of the law. Such is the complex relationship between India and love.
It is ironic that groups that claim to be the bastion of Indian culture, act in contraction to its rich history, especially when it comes to expressions of love. It is even more disconcerting that the protectorate of the people are being encouraged by these groups to engage in moral policing. After all, when did who’s kissing whom become a priority of public authorities? When did our society change from loving love to hating it?
This post was written in collaboration with Digant Raj Kapoor, of the Inquisitive Indian.