Srinagar, Asharq Al-Awsat and Agencies – In several cities, Hindu nationalists approached young couples and vandalized shops selling Valentine’s Day cards and gifts, and restaurants that are promoting the theme.
Hindu nationalist groups had warned people to stay indoors Tuesday, stating that they would confront young couples showing affection in public and threatened to beat them, show their pictures to their parents or force them to get married.
A female militant group had also stormed gift and stationery shops, burning Valentine’s Day cards to protest what they called the imposition of Western values on Muslim youth.
Saint Valentine’s Day has become increasingly popular in India over recent years, particularly by retailers however; some groups feel that the youth becomes too amorous over a “foreign” festival that corrupts traditional values.
On Tuesday, dozens of Hindu activists holding swords used loudspeakers in dozens of Indian cities demanding that couples remain indoors on Tuesday. They patrolled the streets and forced a handful of couples who were being affectionate in public to get married. Groups such as the Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena are part of a growing trend of cultural vigilantes opposed to what they see as increasing imitation of the West, especially by teenagers. Such groups, in the past, have stopped the screening of controversial films dealing with homosexuality and the plight of widows forced into prostitution, saying that these films denigrate India’s ancient traditions.
Carrying saffron flags, Shiv Sainiks held demonstrations in Northern and Western India, central India and northern parts riding on motorcycles, warning restaurant, hotel and club owners not to entertain couples.
“We had warned all shops in advance not to sell these cards. We are not against love but we don’t want people to celebrate Valentine’s Day as it’s a Western concept,” a Shiv Sena official told the Hindustan Times.
Special police squads were deployed at hotels, restaurants and picnic spots across India in view of a warning issued by the Bajrang Dal and other outfits.