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15 February, 2009

Students march against Morality Police on Valentine's Day

Kavita Krishnan, National Secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association and Rajan Pandey, Secretary, All India Students' Association, Delhi, write:

This Valentine's Day, students of Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Indian Institute of Mass Communication and Jawaharlal Nehru University under the banner of the All India Students' Association (AISA) and the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) defied the diktats of the Sangh Parivar moral police and celebrated freedom of expression and women's rights with a march in and around the DU North Campus. Cultural teams (Sangwari and Awaam) comprising of Jamia Millia Islamia students sang creative and defiant songs celebrating the "right to live and love in freedom" and performed street plays on this theme.

The students marched to various colleges in the DU campus and also to the Kamla Nagar market area where, in the past, the Sangh Parivar has indulged in vandalism on Valentine's Day. In the crowded Kamla Nagar market they raised slogans, "Love is not a crime, so why fear the Sanghi terrorists?" They demanded a ban on the Sri Ram Sene, Bajrang Dal and all other outfits that attack the freedom of expression and women's choices.

Rajan Pandey, Secretary of AISA in Delhi, leading the march, said the aim of the march was to break the atmosphere of fear created by the Sanghi Taliban. He said that the protest was part of AISA's ongoing national campaign for campus democracy against 'virtual emergency on campuses.' Gender justice was an integral part of campus democracy, he said.

Kavita Krishnan, National Secretary of AIPWA, said, "They claim to oppose Valentine's Day because it's a 'Westernised' festival that promotes obscene market culture. We ask them, isn't the custom of dowry also an instance of 'market culture'? Aren't dowry deaths obscene? Yet, the Sangh Parivar and BJP never oppose dowry because they want Indian women to remain suppressed."

Kapil Sharma of Sangwari, a cultural team, said their street plays intended to show how the morality police oppose women's equality: in one play, a woman tennis player is forced first to cover her body, then even her face, in the name of morality – and then eventually she is counseled to play the only game that is permitted for women – "chapatti-chapatti." Kapil said, "If the morality police have their way, Sania Mirza could never play with Mahesh Bhupathi and win a Grand Slam, because Muslims and Hindus are not supposed to interact with each other, and also because Sania is a woman."

Aslam of Jamia Millia Islamia who also runs Awaam, another cultural team, said his group had specially prepared songs on women's freedom and love to suit this innovative protest.

A large number of students as well as passers-by and shoppers in the Kamla Nagar market stopped to watch the plays and give a warm hand to the activists.

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