The Indian Lovers Party and its politics of love.
Every Valentine’s Day, B Kumar Sri Sri and his Indian Lovers Party celebrate by going to the city’s beaches and distributing sweets to all the young couples there. “Even Shah Jahan was doubted when he was building the Taj Mahal. Now, can you think of a world without it?” This is what Kumar said to his detractors on Valentine’s Day in 2008 when he was thinking of entering politics…for the sake of love. He went ahead and put in all the money he had back then—Rs. 5,000— into registering a political party, printing posters and spreading the word. Believe it or not, this party has some of the most radical political ideas today in India.
The Indian Lovers Party (ILP) seeks to help couples who are on the run from disapproving family members and societal pressures. ILP has earned quite a number of followers (2 lakh worldwide, he claims), and a bunch of press coverage.
B. Kumar Sri Sri, Founder President, Indian Lover’s Party
Kumar’s story has all the ingredients for a Kollywood masala flick: an underdog hero fighting against social prejudices to defend love for everyone. So where does this story begin? Kumar says he fell in love in the year 2000, and has believed in its power ever since. “I was spending some quality time with my new bride on Chennai’s famous Marina Beach. It was crowded as usual when the police suddenly showed up. They started to chase some of the young couples away, shouting at them, “Why are you being indecent here? Go away, all this is not allowed!”
I thought to myself, “What are they doing wrong? They’re no different from us, a married couple!” This is the moment that sparked the love revolution for Kumar and he decided to do something about it. Something big. “There is no political voice for lovers”, he said to himself, “so I must try to fight for them”.
B. Kumar Sri Sri with his wife
From then on, Kumar has been unstoppable. His friends and family have been extremely skeptical over the years and have even resorted to ridiculing him. The idea was unheard of – politics in the service of love! – and nobody believed it would work. But Kumar has proven them all wrong.
The Indian Lovers Party participated in the 2011 state elections and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and lost on both counts. Kumar is not deterred, “I will slowly gain enough supporters to win. Next year I’m hoping to bag one seat in the big parties (DMK and AIADMK) so that I have a little more influence. As long as lovers keep coming to me for help, I will go on.”
So who are these couples seeking political support for their troubles in paradise?
“Everyone from inter-religious couples to those from strict family backgrounds come asking for help to get married,” says Kumar. “My first success story was a young Hindu-Christian couple named Lakshmi and Srinivasan. They wanted to get married, but the girl’s parents did not consent. I quizzed the boy about his intentions and asked him if he would protect her till the very end. They seemed very committed, so I gave them a one gram gold thali (marriage thread) from my ILP trust and convinced the parents. They’re happily married with two children now.”
He also admits that all ILP stories are not hunky-dory. “Many people try using me as a scapegoat, because I offer help readily. One man came to me saying that his daughter had run away with her lover, stealing all the family jewelry. I asked him to go to the police and he said they’d refused to help. When I badgered the man whom she had ran away with, he revealed that it was not the man’s daughter actually, but his own wife who had fled!”
Kumar takes his work seriously and only helps couples that are in it for the long haul. He even demands that they produce birth certificates before he arranges their wedding. “There was one guy who simply scanned his birth certificate, replaced his name with his partner’s and tried to pass off his copy as her own certificate. But I noticed that the birthday and signature remained the same, so I caught him. I will only help them if they follow the right procedure—my reputation is also on the line.”
Once he commits and the deed is done, though, Kumar makes sure that the lovers are adequately taken care of. For couples who are scared of family violence in the name of honour, he ensures that the police commissioner (now a close acquaintance) appoints a security escort all the way up to their home districts.
Kumar Sri Sri, Lovers party candidate
But times are changing—as is the mentality of Indian lovers everywhere. How is Kumar the protector of love keeping up? “I know that young couples nowadays have all kinds of ideas about romance, but my stance is very clear. I don’t help anyone with premarital or extramarital affairs, or love just for the sake of it.”
And how does he plan to get through to couples in the digital age? “Google me, go ahead! You’ll find all the links there. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter!”
The biggest challenges to love today, according to Kumar, are social prejudices and inertia towards change. He claims that while "moral policing has come down a lot in recent years" there’s still a long way for lovers to go before they can let their guard down. Kumar is also supportive of inter-caste and inter-religious matches.
Apart from their standard beach celebrations every Valentine’s Day, Kumar says he also has some media interviews lined up “where I answer queries from young couples. Usually, the police never gives us permission to conduct a rally on that day, but this year they have granted such permission to another party. We will make sure that from next year, we have a grand rally as well on Feb 14th!”
So where does Kumar’s wife, his muse, fit into all this? “We still go to Marina beach to celebrate Valentines day. We have two kids now—Sanjay and Aneesh—who are in the 6th and 9th. We take them along and have a fun evening on the beach.”
By Drishya Gautham