India: incredible, diverse, ironic – a land with a sensitive gut when it comes to “obscenity”. Indians have some pretty fierce opinions on who is allowed to say and do what.
While Kareena and Malaika have popularized jandu bam and fevicol, other movements, opinions, and shows have been considered obscene enough for involved parties to receive FIRs and serious amounts of public pressure to retract, apologize, and hush up.
1. AIB Knockout
Ah, for fear of someone banning this article, I will refrain from referring to some of the jokes made this year on the AIB show. This show premiered on social media, and then proceeded to shock, stun, impress, and forever change the boundary horizons Indians would see past.
The ‘Roast’ had Karan Johar MC the official roasting of Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor with other well known people from the industry. It immediately split viewers into sides. Some groups celebrated the maturity we were gaining for being able to create and laugh at such crafted, vile, and parodic comedy. Others, were alarmed at the foul language and references to religion and women.
A Mumbai court issued FIRs to all that were involved in the show, including, Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt. For what? Obscenity, and sections of the law that related to Information Technology and, get this, conspiracy too. AIB featured a popular apology video on YouTube, retracted their AIB video (although copies and the good old internet still have them) and apologised to offended communities. Freedom of speech, anyone? Or did they do that right thing by apologising? The verdict is and always will be subjective.
2. Kiss Of Love Campaign
If you are 26 or older you probably don’t remember many Bollywood films that had the actors lip locking without a flower covering the act or their heads conveniently turning away from the camera. Public display of affection is not exactly the most comfortable thing to practice on our roads because we see so little of it, and when it’s done there is a healthy amount of staring and a major case of the “uncomfortables” that attack the population. Of course, if you must pee on the road, go ahead, we are pretty used to that.
People stepped up in 2014 in Kochi, Kerala. They had first launched their successful ‘Kiss of Love campaign’, where the youth and other activists came to protest and practice pubic kissing and take a stand against moral policing. Just an hour into the the event, they got their fair share of right-wing threats, and conservative groups barging in and spreading havoc at the protest.
The Facebook page got an outrageous number of likes, and social media was jumping with support for the protesters.They had made a mark and other cities followed. Except, Bangalore. The state’s home minister K J George said that the police would take action as they saw fit and the continued threats from right-wing groups made the Kiss Of Love organizers rethink their plan for Bangalore’s version of the protest. They decided it might be safer to chuck the plan entirely. Proof that freedom of expression does have firm resistance in a country that claims to embrace all forms of expression and identity.
3. Arrested for a FB post
FB has always been a hot spot for political discussions, opinionated fights, and social critique. In 2012, two girls were arrested because of a post that one of them wrote. The post questioned why the entire city had to be shut down on account of the death of Shiv Sena’s Head, Bal Thackeray. The girls were arrested in Thane, under section 505(2) – statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred, or ill-will between classes. They did not stop there, one of the girl’s uncle had his orthopaedic hospital vandalised as a group of 40 shoved their way inside. The girls were ultimately released on bail, but it did spark a social media conversation on our rights to examine and critique our country and its government.