Hindus protested an encroaching Western culture by burning Valentine’s Day cards at parliament in New Delhi on Wednesday, according to various news reports.
Roughly 20 members of a Hindu unity group called Shiv Sena burned cards, blocked traffic and shouted slogans like “Ban Valentine’s Day,” “Stop this attack on Indian Culture” and “Stop obscenity and nudity in the name of Valentine’s Day,” Reuters reported.
Some of the cards they burned showed couples hugging and kissing, according to the Times of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />India.
“I bought some of these cards for Rs [Rupees] 150 each to prove that this is not our culture,” Jai Bhagwan, chief of the New Delhi Shiv Sena unit, told the Times. “Our workers will visit various shops selling these cards and distribute handbills to educate people to avoid aping the western ways of life.”
Bhagwan said violent protests were not planned for today, “but if our men are stopped from protesting peacefully we will retaliate,” he told Reuters.
Associated Press reported that men “claiming to represent” Shiv Sena “smashed potted plants, tossed chairs and knocked over diners’ trays” to interrupt couples celebrating Valentine’s Day last year.
And in preparation for Feb. 14 this year, several nationalist groups—Shiv Sena, Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal—issued press releases discouraging Valentine’s Day celebrations.
Shiv Sena members in Bhopal and Bombay threatened earlier this week to “blacken the faces” of people caught celebrating Valentine’s Day, Reuters reported.
The warnings may have worked. New Delhi shop owner Rohit Gujral told AP his Valentine’s Day card sales were down 70 percent from last year.
Nevertheless, Bombay’s Afternoon Despatch & Courier carried a story on Sampat Benke, a florist in the city. “These roses you see will cost Rs. [Rupees] 10 on Valentine’s Day and they will be picked up in the hundreds,” Benke told the paper.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
And Swati Varma, a college student in New Delhi, didn’t let the protests stop her from openly buying a Valentine’s Day card in a shop.
“Who are these people to tell us not to celebrate Valentine’s Day?” she told Reuters. “This is a free country.”
Virtually every Indian paper available online and in English featured Valentine’s Day ads yesterday.
The Indian Express (www.expressindia.com), the India Today Group (www.india-today.com), the Hindu (http://www.hinduonnet.com/), the Hindustan Times (www.hindustantimes.com) and others featured Valentine’s Day ads on their front pages.
And Wednesday’s poll at the India Times was: “Should Valentine’s Day be celebrated in India?”
Sixty-eight percent had said yes. Thirty-two percent, no.
Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director.
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