A “kissing competition” held at a local fair in Littipara, in Jharkhand’s Pakur district, on December 9 evening has led to a row with the state BJP criticising the sitting Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MLA Simon Marandi, who had attended the programme ‘being a local’, of trivialising tribal culture. Marandi said this was just to prevent married couples from seeking divorce, which, he claimed, was some sort of trend in the Santhal community.
The fair, which is held every year and named tribal icons Siddo-Kanu (who fought against the British), was held in Talapahari village of Littipara assembly constituency, where Marandi became MLA in the bypoll in April this year. The seat belonged to JMM and was held by Anil Murmu, who passed away in January, forcing the bypoll.
One of the “events” in the fair was a ‘kissing competition’, in which couples were asked to kiss each other in public. Around 20-odd couples had participated. A video of the competition surfaced online and subsequently went viral, even generating a huge debate given the government’s stand on ‘public displays of affection’.
Talking to The Indian Express over phone, Marandi said: “I don’t understand what the hullabaloo is about. This fare has been held since long and several competitions are organised. Since it was a local affair, I had to attend it.”
Supporting the ‘kissing competition’, Marandi said, “It is not about making people modern, as such, because tribal have their own lifestyle. But it is also true that there is a growing trend among tribal of divorcing their spouses,” men and women, both leave their current spouses to marry somebody else. This leads to break-up of families. This event was intended “to make love blossom” between the couples. In fact, the name of the fair in Santhali language literally means “kiss of love (prem ka chumban).”
Watch a video of the ‘kissing competition’ here.
Asked about BJP’s strong criticism of him, Marandi said, “I don’t know what they are speaking. In any case, do the BJP people know the realities of the village? Do they even visit one?”
Meanwhile, Hemlal Murmu, state BJP vice-president and the man who had unsuccessfully contested against Marandi, said in a press conference that such event amounted to trivialising tribal culture.
In a press release, Murmu said: “In Santhal traditions, the girl and boy do not even shake hands; kissing is something way too far. Santhal tradition never had such a thing. Also, this fair is being organised in the name of Siddo-Kanu and the Hul revolt, which they led. But, at this time, it is neither the birth anniversary of these brave leaders nor the day of Hul revolt. This is humiliation of the female power.”
Murmu also demanded that Marandi should not be allowed to attend Assembly session, which starts from Tuesday.