For most of the world, Valentine’s Day is a way to publicly validate your love, like a celebration for having managed to avoid the single street and find their other halves to walk alongside them. For some, though—like Hindu far right-wing groups—it’s a day to seek out couples who engage in the terrible act of PDA, and teach them a lesson by either beating them up or get them married off.
But this is not new. These anti-Valentine’s Day squads have been out and about for several years, and are usually made up of men who believe in the virtuous powers of marriage before love and sex, and are on a mission to deal with all those who oppose this mindset in their own special, violent ways. The vicious moral policing in India was brought to the limelight in 2009, when an attack took place on couples at a pub in Mangalore. Since then, it’s like a modern-day tradition to find groups like the Sri Ram Sena, Shakti Sena or Bharat Sena taking to the streets to punish behaviour they feel only belongs in the sheets. And that’s why, Valentine’s Day this year is not going to be any different.
On February 12, the Hindu Sena issued a notice in Delhi, stating that any couple caught engaging in the criminal act of “obscenity” will be “handed over to the police.” To execute this mission, the group has deployed groups of men on the streets to monitor and protect the people from hardened criminals whose biggest offence is to fall in love. And all this will be done while shouting anti-Valentine’s Day slogans, along with tearing up Valentine’s Day greeting cards and setting them on fire. In fact, this year’s moral policing has already started. In Tamil Nadu earlier this week, the Hindu Sena came out on the streets, raised slogans and tore Valentine’s Day greeting cards.
Meanwhile, the Bajrang Dal—the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which is a religious radical group formed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which in turn is the parent organisation of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—has plans of its own. The Hyderabad unit of Bajrang Dal has declared that any couple “found wandering around on Valentine’s Day” will be given a lecture on patriotism. “On this day last year, 45 of our brave soldiers were killed in a Pakistani-sponsored terrorist attack in Pulwama, J&K. How can we forget that cowardly act of our enemy and celebrate love?” said P Balaswamy, publicity convenor, VHP, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Earlier this week, VICE had approached advocate Alok Kumar, the national working president of the VHP for a comment. However, the organisation’s spokesperson denied all allegations of anti-Valentine’s Day campaigns. “We will only be handing out pamphlets to those who want them and won’t be apprehending couples on the street,” Kumar told VICE.
But reports continue to show different acts of dissent by the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists, like burning over over 200 Valentine’s Day greeting cards in Hyderabad. In fact, the outfits have a new demand: That Valentine’s Day be officially repackaged as “Veer Jawan Diwas”. “If we find lovers spending time at parks, malls, clubs, pubs, restaurants and other places this year, we won’t get them married. We will counsel them on love for our nation and ask them to pay tributes to our brave martyrs,” said Balaswamy.
In a country that already looks down upon PDA, targeting couples on the streets is another level of fucked up. Maybe it’s time someone gave them the memo that the “V” in V-Day doesn’t stand for “violence”.
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