Valentine’s Day was non-event in Bangalore, but not any more!

February 11th, 2009 - 11:23 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyBangalore Police’s soothing tune to the city’s lovebirds seems to be “we are here, celebrate without fear” even as the Sri Rama Sene has warned that it will marry off couples found publicly displaying their love for each other on Feb 14.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also said that those disrupting the celebrations with force or violence will be treated as thugs and prosecuted under the state Goondas (thugs) Act.

Punishment is severe under this Act compared to the Indian Penal Code or the Criminal Procedure Code. Getting bail pending trial is also difficult.

K.E. Radhakrishna, a retired professor of English, said in the over 40 years of his college life in Bangalore, first as student and then as a teacher, he has not seen any Valentine’s Day celebration within college campuses.

“When I was a student, hardly three or four percent of the boys and girls of Bangalore used to walk around hand in hand. That percentage has not changed. If you see a large number of people walking hand in hand these days, it is because the city’s population is around eight million,” he said.

“This is a non-issue. No importance should be given to outfits like the Sri Rama Sene,” he said.

But the man who started it all, Pramod Muthalik, founder-president of Sri Rama Sene, which gained prominence when its activists attacked women at a pub in Mangalore last month, is unfazed.

“You don’t know. Multinational companies sponsor programmes where young men and women drink and dance,” Muthalik told IANS. “We are collecting information,” Muthalik said when asked how his outfit was planning to prevent or disrupt celebrations.

He was confident that his outfit’s threat would impact Valentine’s Day celebrations. “People are scared now. Parents will not allow their children to go to such parties.”

Muthalik’s disconnect with reality seems complete going by the reaction of college goers, professionals, teachers and the like.

Even the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP, does not agree with Muthalik’s methods.

Disapproving of the Sri Rama Sene’s threat to marry off couples, Ravi Chandra, ABVP Karnataka unit secretary, said: “They are doing this for publicity.”

“Except in Bangalore, there has been hardly any celebration in other parts of Karnataka. Even in Bangalore, it is on the decline,” he said.

He said: “We are also opposed to Valentine’s Day celebrations as well as pub culture, but our campaign will be to create awareness in college campuses. We will do it two-three days before Valentine’s Day.”

Karan Joseph, a third year law student who helps coordinate the activities of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) affiliated to the Congress party, said: “It is not like that day has any special significance.”

“It is just that people meet up that day, in case they were meeting once a week or 15 days, many make it a point to meet that day. Only a tag has been given to it,” he said.

NSUI secretary Poonam Choudhury looks after Karnataka affairs from Delhi with the help of Joseph. “We abhor the action of the Sri Rama Sene,” she said on phone when asked about NSUI plans to counter the Sene programme. “We are working out a plan of action,” she said.

Even the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), to which the BJP and most pro-Hindu organisations look up for guidance, seems to have had enough of Muthalik, its former member, and his outfit.

K. Narahari, RSS south-central zone secretary, said he would not mind if the Sri Rama Sene is banned. “We are against Valentine’s Day, pub culture, etc, but we believe in debate and discussion and not violence,” he said.

Muthalik, a former RSS man, started the Sri Rama Sene after he was expelled from another rightwing Hindu group, Bajrang Dal, two years ago.

His threat to disrupt Valentine’s Day celebrations followed the notoriety his outfit gained from the vicious attack on women in a pub in Mangalore, about 350 km from here, Jan 24 on the ground that it was against Indian culture.

Muthalik has around 40 cases against him in Karnataka, most of which relate to charges of inciting communal disharmony. He was also arrested for justifying the Mangalore pub attack. He has got bail in all the cases.

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