Love is in the air for Indians as V-Day police keep away
Conservative right-wing activists in India have their own version of how Valentine’s Day should be celebrated, if at all.
For more than a decade, images of couples being chased by radicals or flogged by police had become as routine on Valentine’s Day as pink hearts and roses. This was a way of protecting Indian culture from being corrupted by Western influence.
Fortunately, not many paid heed. Indians have embraced this day of love with much gusto, and their resilience has paid off. This year, many of the self-appointed custodians of Indian culture have decided to go easy on romancing couples.
“What is the use or point. We cannot stop them from celebrating, and we are getting a bad reputation,” Om Dutt Sharma, a member of prominent right-wing group Shiv Sena told local media.
This resignation could be a result of the gradual depletion of media interest in their annual antics or a sign of an increasingly assertive Indian youth, who spent millions of rupees last year on Valentine’s Day — and are now using the internet to both register their discontent and also to reclaim the day.
Writer and literary critic Nilanjana S. Roy has organised a #flashreads event using social media. In an effort to “take back the day” and “protest against the rising intolerance that has spread across India”, protesters are encouraged to read works by banned writers in public areas on February 14.
Online shopping websites have not shied from using racy advertising gimmicks to promote V-Day sales. Snapdeal.com, a website similar to Groupon, will be selling a pack of condoms for a rupee the entire day and say the campaign was a hit within four hours of the launch.
“We plan to sell close to one lakh (100,000) condoms today,” says Snapdeal employee Eiti Singhal.
In a country with low condom use among unmarried couples, with reasons ranging from limited access to social stigma associated with pre-marital sex, such a campaign would have been a sure fire way to attract extremists’ wrath a few years ago.
Perhaps the day when couples can kiss without bribing a police official or fleeing a baton charge is not far — at least one can hope.