Reactions to the arrest of ‘Kiss of love’ activists Rahul Pasupalan and his wife Resmi Nair have been mixed, with supporters condemning the attack on the movement after the couple’s arrest and critics claiming that it was just a cover for the shady activities of the organisers.
The couple was arrested for their alleged involvement in an online sex racket in Kochi on Wednesday. Police stumbled upon the racket while investigating a complaint about a paedophile page on Facebook called ‘Kochu Sundarikal’ and a pop-up advertisement on the internet which promised women escorts.
“I always suspected that these people had some ulterior motives,” said Tony Chammany, who was the mayor of Kochi when the first protest of the movement happened in the city’s Maine Drive in November 2014.
Chammany also took a jibe at those who criticised his stand, saying, “At least from now onwards I hope that those who slammed my position and netizens who trolled me will think twice before jumping the gun.”
Television personality Rahul Easwar, however, said it was not the time to score brownie points. “A lot of youngsters in the state are falling into such traps. The need for the hour is to rehabilitate them and bring them back to the mainstream.”
Supporters of the group condemned the move as an attempt to tar the entire movement based on the conduct of some individuals. “‘Kiss of love’ was a necessity of time. It was an alternative protest movement against the menace of moral policing in Kerala,” said SR Nandakumar, a supporter from Thiruvananthapuram.
Nandakumar further questioned the media which dubbed Pasupalan as the organiser of the movement.
“Pasupalan was a creation of the media which has a penchant for identifying protest movements with some individuals. Moreover, the complaint which led to the eventual arrest of Pasupalan was filed by a member of the online group ‘Sexually Frustrated Mallu’ which had similar ideals like ‘Kiss of Love’ movement,” he added.
Other supporters of the movement also raised suspicions about a witch hunt.
“Why would a man, who was involved in a sex racket, be so active on social media and expose himself to the public the way Rahul did? We cannot take police version on face value,” said Bipin Bindu Baburaj, a student of the University of Hyderabad, who participated in a similar protest in the campus last year.
The ‘Kiss of love’ group, on the other hand, was quick in disassociating itself from the couple.
“It is quite natural that some icons will emerge with every protest and the ideals of the agitation may be articulated by them. Kiss of Love happened after some youngsters came together on the call of Harmis Hashim, a member of the group ‘Freethinkers’. Rahul and Resmi joined the movement and became icons along the way. But that does not mean that they are the last word of ‘Kiss of Love’,” a post on the group’s Facebook page said.
The ‘Kiss of Love’ movement had started in Kerala in 2014 after a mob vandalised a coffee shop in Kozhikode in northern Kerala. The mob had alleged that the café was being used for immoral activities. The protests in Kochi gained traction and spread to other cities.
Pasupalan, an IT professional, and Nair, a model, soon emerged as the prominent faces of the protest with their frequent appearances on various TV channels and updates on social media. Pasupalan was also shortlisted as one of the ‘Newsmakers’ of 2014 in a Malayalam channel along with Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor and former Isro chairperson K Radhakrishnan.