The recent vandalism of a café-cum-restaurant in Calicut by the Yuva Morcha activists has invited widespread criticism with celebrities and activists pouring in with a huge support for the café.
The Downtown coffee shop, that was opened nine months back, was ransacked by the BJP’s youth wing activists who marched to the café on October 23 claiming that they were "forced to react" against "immoral activities" in public places. The attackers carrying BJP party flags and raising slogans smashed the windows, furniture, television sets and sign boards in the café saying that the hotel authorities were making arrangements for the youths to engage in immoral activities. The 20-member group of Yuva Morcha workers, led by Prakash Babu carried out the attack that came soon after private Congress television channel Jai Hind flashed an exclusive report and video footage on the activities at the hotel. The channel ran an “investigative” report showing couples engaging in ‘immoral’ activities but did not substantiate its claims. It also claimed the distribution of drugs in the café. The café is run by a group of engineering and management graduates led by Maniyoth Veetil Basil Moosa of Payyoli and his brother Bensil Moosa and is frequented by the students from National Institute of Technology Calicut (NIT-C) and Indian Institute of Management – Kozhikode (IIMK).
Cine artists, cyber activists and several others came forward extending their support. The channel kept replaying the footage shot at the restaurant claiming that the café was attracting the youngsters with various sops like free wifi option and mentioned ‘dark areas’ in the open parking space with seating arrangements. The attackers backed by the Congress justified the attack as a ‘natural’ reaction against the activity that was against the culture and tradition. The TV cameraman were already present at the spot to cover the scoop, a fact denied by the channel who claimed on reaching the spot along with other channels after getting informed by the police.
The Downtown café incident is a clear case of moral policing and such incidents are on a rise in the state with the groups intruding anywhere and everywhere enforcing a code of morality sometimes through violence and intimidation. The target of their activity would be anything they deem “immoral” or against the Indian culture. Another similar incident took place in Thottilpalam where a woman committed suicide after her friend was beaten up by a group of ‘moral police’ who alleged immoral relationship of the youth with her. The youth who came to inquire about the arrival of her husband from abroad was manhandled by the group who threatened the woman that they would inform her husband of her illegal relationship.
Heavy protests against the media as well as ‘moral police’ have been going on since the Downtown café incident. A ‘kissing event’ is being held on November 2 at Kochi Marine drive to protest against ‘moral policing’ by kissing in public. The organizers protesting the Yuvamorcha attack has said that the event would be an ‘announcement’ that the society did not want ‘moral prostitutes’ and would be conducted as scheduled. The Jaihind channel has also been given a special invitation to cover the event exclusively. More than thousands have come forward supporting the event and liking the Facebook pages created for the promotion of the event.
The huge support received for such an event is the people’s reiterating the fact that privacy is every individual’s right and not something that has to be intruded on. When culture is something that is to be observed as well as preserved, the privacy factor too is important to every individual. The feudal outfits posing as ‘moral police’ deny all the individual freedom and the right to privacy in the name of culture. At the same time, the extreme liberal stance purely emphasizing on individual rights and freedom to indulge in such activities including stressing the need for free sex, should also be controlled. Both the cases need to be evaluated and discoursed in detail, which if left otherwise would uproot the existing family as well as the social setup.