Posted by: cochinblogger | February 19, 2016

When Artists Protest


Protests are a dime a dozen in Kerala, but this was different enough to stop me dead in my tracks. For one thing, there were no flags, which ruled out a political protest. All demonstrations by political parties involve flag waving. Then again, there was no slogan shouting. The protesters were silent, which was a novelty; most political protests are an assault on the ear drums. Lastly, these protesters carried works of art: paintings, sketches, sculptures. And the centerpiece of the procession was a cage in which were present a few young men and a woman, all of them dressed like construction workers. What was the protest about?

In the early hours of New Year’s Day, a group of artists were stopped by a police patrol in Fort Kochi. There was a woman (she is in the cage in a photo below) among the group, which the policemen found hard to digest. What was a young woman of virtue doing with a group of young men on a beach in the early hours of the morning?! One thing led to another, and the upshot was that the young men were beaten up by the police. They had to be hospitalized.

The artists belonged to a collective of artists that had constructed pappanji, a giant Santa-Claus-like figure that is burned in Fort Kochi every year as the climactic event that brings the Cochin Carnival to a close. The word pappanji means “old man” in Portuguese. There have been close cultural ties between Cochin (especially Fort Kochi) and Portugal, and the custom of the annual burning of pappanji in Fort Kochi is just another strand of this complex web of interrelationships. The photo below shows the pappanji constructed by a group of students of Maharaja’s College in December of 2015. The pappanji built by the group of artists that was targeted by the police would have resembled this pappanji closely.

Kerala society, which is advanced in so many respects, especially when compared with the rest of India, is still a prudish society, and the assault on the group of artists by policemen is yet another distasteful example of moral policing. I conclude with a couple of newspaper reports, one on the incident and the other on the origin of the annual rite of the burning of pappanji. Images of the silent protest procession taken out by the artists follow. Their silence was a wise choice, as their art spoke louder than any words could have done.

Plot to Protect ACP in Moral Policing Incident

The Old Man and a Fleeting Year










Powered by Zoundry Raven



  1. Moving and powerful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: