A year ago, they were the face of the volatile 'Kiss of Love' campaign in Kerala. Today, Rahul Pashupalan and his wife, Reshmi R Nair, are behind bars along with four others for what the police are calling an online prostitution racket.
Rahul and Reshmi shot to fame after organising the non-violent protests against alleged moral policing in Kerala, where participants kissed each other in public. The iconic photograph from the protest that began a year ago in Kerala, and later spread to different parts of the country, shows the married couple in a lip-lock even as they are pushed into the back of a police van.
On Wednesday, the couple were arrested from a hotel near Nedumbassery airport in Kochi in simultaneous raids conducted in various parts of the state. Their six-year-old son was with them when they were arrested.
In a Facebook post written in Malayalam, the 'Kiss of Love' organisers said that the allegations against Pashupalan and Nair wouldn't affect their protest, and that the movement was independent of the couple's involvement in any crime.
"Though media reports can't be trusted entirely, IG Sreejith in a press meet has said that Rahul and Resmi were arrested on several charges, including sex trafficking. If the allegations are true, what he did is against the stances of Kiss of Love movement," read the post. "The KoL activists condemn it strongly. And even if he is innocent, it is solely his responsibility to prove it."
One of the protestors, who was in the police van last year when Pashupalan and Nair were photographed, chose not to comment on the arrest, indicating that law would take its course.
If minors are involved, this is serious. Otherwise i don't care. I'm for making prostitution legal. https://t.co/dkPWHcj9J1— #NetNeutralityIndia (@Datoism) November 18, 2015
Four others were also arrested, according to reports, and IGP (Crimes) S Sreejith told journalists that they had found two underage girls along with the accused.
While local police have alleged that Pashupalan and Nair were "directly involved" in the case, the main accused in the case is one Kader alias Akbar.
Police decoys had got in touch with Kader, masquerading as customers and they were sent photographs of Reshmi and details. "Discussions were held and lot of bargaining went on", the official said.
Seven others have also been arrested for uploading photographs of minor girls and posting obscene comments on a Facebook site that promised escort service.
"Child Pornography is a big offence globally," he said, adding that Facebook officials had cooperated with them fully.
Cases under various sections of IPC, the IT act and POSCO (Protection of children from sexual offences) act have been registered against the accused.
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