India Insight

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 them, couples found kissing, dancing and snuggling need to be humiliated publicly or beaten, especially if this behaviour is exhibited on the “day of lust and shame”.

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.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea on V-Day

Never before have Indian lovers found themselves in such a situation. 
Accustomed to being chased by patrolling policemen from behind clumps of rose bushes at parks, I wonder if they are not a little bemused by the sheer number of people who have turned protector of young love.
They find themselves in the middle of a tug-of-war between Hindu hardliners with a mandate to protect Indian culture from Western influence and anti-moral policing groups bent on helping them keep dates on Valentine’s Day.
Several citizen and political groups have spoken out against plans by the Sri Ram Sena, a little-known Hindu group, to stop couples canoodling on Valentine’s Day saying it went against Indian culture.
I know the lovers have always had it tough, but dating on V-Day this year might not prove to be easier.
If preparations are anything to go by, then one would think India was at war.
A concerned overseas friend, already jittery following a series of militant attacks in India, heard about the additional police deployment in parts of the country and called up. “Is everything all right? Why the additional security?”

I had no option but to reply sheepishly “Oh we are gearing up for Valentine’s Day.”
With Hindu groups determined to continue their campaign against couples romancing in public and their opponents fiercely protective of the rights of those who do, yes, I am guessing it’s going to be an interesting day to take out your partner for that quiet, romantic date you always wanted.
Vatal Nagaraj, a former member of the Karnataka state assembly, has planned to mobilise a fleet of cars named  ‘Prema Vahanas’ (Love Vehicles) on Valentine’s Day even as a “consortium of pub-going, loose and forward women”, founded by four Indian women on social networking website Facebook has vowed to send cartons of pink panties to the Ram Sena.
Blogger Namrata Kotwani, whose website has attracted media attention, plans to hold a protest meet on V-Day in the national capital.  
The Ram Sena, which shot into the limelight after it assaulted women in a pub in Mangalore, have cautioned shops, pubs and restaurants in Karnataka against marking Valentine’s Day.
Karnataka police took into custody its chief and scores of activists ahead of February 14 to prevent unwanted trouble.
In a situation such as this, I wonder if it would be much less trouble to stay put at home and enjoy a delightfully boring but perfectly peaceful Valentine’s Day with your partner.