by Rahul Sen
LaxmiBai was the ignitor, desire was the fuel, Facebook was the furnace. It all started with this mysterious profile of LaxmiBai creating an event page and sending invites over Facebook to attend a protest in front of the Hindu Mahasabha Bhawan at Mandir Marg against their diktat to forcefully marry off couples who are found celebrating on the streets, in the parks or other public spaces on Valentine’s Day. Their ire being, Indians blindly imitating and valourising a western import (much like homosexuality), they decided to choose ‘marriage’ as a weapon – for punishment, for torture, for disciplining. In a way, this act of the Hindu Mahasabha has somehow managed to fracture the apparent ‘sanctity’ of the Hindu marital institution by using it as a mode of retribution. This uncannily equates the Hindu Mahasabha’s political position with those myriad feminists who stand against ‘marriage’ and rant against the oppressiveness of the institution. Some of us, who identify as feminists, have been saying the same thing for all this while now, that marriage is oppressive, that marriage is an encumbrance, that marriage is debilitating!
It is in this hope that the protesters gathered in front of the Hindu Mahasabha Bhawan; to show solidarity because we share a similar sentiment on the idea of ‘marriage’. But we respected (pun intended) the Mahasabha’s decision; we reached there in our best of clothes – wearing sarees, lehengas, ghagras and kurtas – because we were to attend weddings and also to get wedded, to anyone and everyone! But things did not turn out well, as was expected. We were forcefully detained by the police, all 400 of us, at the Parliament Street police station. But what followed was spectacular and unprecedented. The detained protesters entered the police station like a baraat – singing, dancing, full of fun, frolic and mirth. The policemen were baffled and bewildered; what is this? Why are they doing this? Is this a protest? What are they protesting for? Probably some of them must have been thinking – why are they even arrested? There was a frown in all of their face; trying hard to comprehend what was going on. Some were amused, very amused for they got five hours of free entertainment – dancing, singing, music, recitals, poetry and performances.
‘Shuddh Desi Romance’ was a success. The right wingers were scared; very very scared; so scared that they ordered detention of a group of unarmed, peaceful protesters who had nothing else but free spirit at their disposal – a spirit and temperament that refuses to be chained by the moralist propriety of the Hindu Mahasabha! The protest has been successful in registering dissent through art and desire – a dissensus that embodied every song we sang, every step we danced, every poem we recited, every slogan we raised! Desire as a weapon for protest has not only been unprecedented but also unsettling; and this is precisely, what scared the Hindu Mahasabha and scares all those right wing outfits that stand against non-normative desire.
It started with the profile of LaxmiBai who has been the motivating factor behind organizing this event, this protest. Speculations have already been circulating in different quarters as to who the person is; is it a male or a female profile; is it any student? This anonymity has accentuated the anxiety of the opposition, the state, the right wingers because LaxmiBai can emerge out of nowhere; LaxmiBai can mobilize people – LaxmiBai is everywhere, from 377 to Kiss of Love, from Narmada Bachao to Gharwapsi, from Badaun to Soni Sori, from Irom Sharmila to Farmers’ suicide, from ‘Jal Jangal Zameen’ to Suddh Desi Romance – LaxmiBai or these LaxmiBais come up in unexpected numbers, from unexpected quarters. They beat, break, slap, tear, gnaw at the hegemony of the state, at the tentacles of the moral police, at every outfit that thrives of fanaticism, fundamentalism, communalism and oppression.
image credits: Nigar Khan