More goons than roses in India, this Valentine’s Day (Roundup)

February 14th, 2009 - 7:49 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) Valentine’s Day Saturday turned into a rallying point as much for forces of women’s liberty and progressiveness - as for self-proclaimed defenders of Indian culture. Lost in the hullabaloo were young lovers.

The war cry for and against Valentine’s day could be heard not just in metros like Mumbai and Delhi, where it is popular among youths, but also in smaller cities like Bhopal and Raipur, turning what was a non-event in these places into a talking point.

Young lovebirds seemed to keep a low profile and this was reflected as much in the slack sales at gift and flower shops as at restaurants and popular hangouts.

“Sales are nothing compared to the last few years when our stock used to get over,” said Narendra Kumar, who sells flowers near Delhi University’s south campus.

There were many who chose the day to cock-a-snook at the moral police -mostly made up of Hindu activists of the Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena who insisted that the day was a Western import and against Indian culture.

“Protesting on Valentine’s Day is just symbolic of the country’s anger against all the self-appointed moral police who have no better business than to poke their noses in other’s affairs,” Namita Jaiswal, a political science student, told IANS.

But the day still threw up some shocking cases of the moral brigade roughing up youths and in some instances, even making good the threat to marry off couples.

“My activists are going to all these places since morning. But barring some V-Day cards and gifts, they did not find anyone indulging in anti-Indian, indecent or objectionable behaviour,” a Shiv Sena laeder in Mumbai, Arun Dudhwadkar, told IANS.

A young man accompanying his sister was brutally beaten up by Bajrang Dal activists in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh who mistook the two to be a pair in love.

Hundreds of such activists were rounded up in various states. Pramod Mutalik of Sri Ram Sene, whose activists had attacked women at a pub last month, were taken into preventive custody earlier in Karnataka. Twenty Bajrang Dal members were arrested in Chhattisgarh for terrorising young lovers.

Also, on a day deemed to be lover’s day, the Haryana Police suspended a sub-inspector who had beaten black and blue a young woman and her boyfriend in Jind town Friday.

Despite the hostile atmosphere, students still managed to celebrate the Valentine’s Day inside college compounds.

That was very much the case in the Panjab University campus in Chandigarh. with a little help from the authorities.

“We organised a pre-Valentine bash in the campus Friday. Right now the university’s own rose festival is going on in full swing. Its timing has complemented our Valentine’s celebrations. You can see hundreds of youngsters enjoying there,” Naval Kishore, dean (students’ welfare), at the university told IANS Saturday.

Much of the northeast saw the usual Valentine celebrations with youngsters queuing up at flower shops and eateries.

In Delhi’s colleges, there was a lot of excitement. Many students skipped classes.

Members of the National Students Union of India, the youth wing of the Congress party, distributed roses in Delhi University in an act of defiance against moral policing.

Speaking in Surat, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi said though he did not observe the day, he was against curbs on Valentine’s Day.

A couple in Hyderabad even turned the Hindu rightwing threat on its head - and deliberately cosied up in public. The result, to their utter happiness, was they were caught and married off by Bajrang Dal activists - something they had not been able to do for three years because of parental opposition!

Some chose the day to send a different message altogether.

“I love you immensely and my heart beats jump to unscaleable heights observing you struggling for life on a hospital bed due to acute loss of blood. So kindly accept the gift of my blood” - with this message over two dozen youths of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh donated blood on the occasion.

In Jammu and Kashmir, it was not Hindu activists but separatist women’s group Dukhtaran-e-Millat that made news. It raided restaurants and burnt greeting cards, saying the celebrations were un-Islamic.

Caught in the crossfire were lovers, many of whom chose to steer clear of controversy.

Sunita Das, a college goer, said she and her boyfriend spent the day with a few friends at her home, watching movies. “I really am in no mood of getting stuck in the middle of any battle between the moral and the anti-moral police!” she said.

[Azera Rahman and Mayank Aggarwal (Delhi), Qaid Najmi (Mumbai), V.S. Karnic (Bangalore), Sujeet Kumar (Raipur), Sanjay Sharma (Bhopal), Alkesh Sharma (Chandigarh), F. Ahmed (Srinagar) Mohammed Shafeeq (Hyderabad) and Syed Zarir Hussain (Guwahati) contributed to this story.]

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