Imagine being dragged out of your home at midnight, being beaten up and shamed publicly.
Imagine that you have not beaten anyone else, done no violence, no economic fraud, nothing. All you've done is fallen in love, and decided to live with someone. And for this, you were punished by someone who claims to speak for everyone.
This is what happened in Balrampur district. The woman was separated from her husband and had begun to live with another man. This couple was reportedly dragged out of their home at the middle of the night. They were beaten, heads shaved, faces blackened, paraded around the village. The village 'pradhan' is another woman but she neither intervened nor reported the assault. Her own husband allegedly led the attack.
Eventually an FIR was filed, which is how we read about it in the newspaper. But judging from the newspapers and TV channels, it would seem that the only thing occupying the collective mind of this nation is cricket. As if it really matters that people bet money on sports. As if it really does not matter that Indians can be beaten and humiliated for being in love. As if people's freedom to live with who they like is of no consequence. As if cricket matches alone assure us dignity and personal liberty.
I can imagine that we all have different views on morality. I can imagine that some of us might be moved to tears by cricket, and that most people toe the majority line when it comes to sexual freedom. But I fail to understand why we want to ignore the most pressing issues of our times.
I suppose a large part of our indifference comes from the fact that this incident was reported from a village. We like to think we are secure in our urban bubbles, where 'people like us' live as they like. We like to think that we will not have goons barging into our homes at midnight to thrash us.
There was another development reported recently, which was also largely ignored by most media houses. Turkey was witnessing a wave of protests that's described as unprecedented. The government, although democratically elected, responded with panic and brute force.
People were fighting to protect fundamental freedoms – their right to public space, and the right to kiss. Before the protesters took to the streets, there was a unique protest. Kissing had been disallowed in public spaces, and people began to stage 'kiss protests'.
It was the natural thing to do, perhaps the only thing to do. If you believe in your right to kiss, or to gather for protests, or to drink in bars, then you must do it.
You must do it until it becomes ordinary, so much a part of your culture that it is ridiculous for anyone to be offended by it.
Indians, young Indians, especially suffer horribly from 'public morality'. Some bans are ridiculous but official – like a ban on mannequins wearing lingerie – but most of the time we suffer immoral, illegal attacks. Under the guise of offending some random group's sense of 'decency', we could be harassed or arrested. Young couples are often beaten up in parks, promenades and beaches. They often have to pay off the offended 'decent' citizen to avoid violence.
And I have never understood why we do not defy more often. Why do we not protest? Why do we not hold hands,or hug, or kiss until it becomes such an ordinary sight that nobody bats an eye? Until the only indecency remaining is the indecency of harming a couple in love.
First published here