Keep loving by saying no to Haters

In India, young couples always need to be on their toes on Valentine’s Day. Purely expressing their love leads them to unintended disaster. But for a change on this Valentine’s Day, couples can snuggle up on the park benches and corners unhassled, as the moral brigades have decided not to play spoilsport by targeting love-struck couples on February 14. The moral brigade is known to harass couples on the ground that Valentine’s Day is a western concept and against Indian culture. But, however, they seem to have realised that the love has no boundaries or frame. In the past, radicals kept vigil at parks, restaurants and other places on the day to prevent couples from getting close, and also attacked greeting card shops, pubs and gardens to protest the celebrations, drawing widespread criticism.

Valentine’s Day is especially popular among young well-educated urbanites — the same people who have also become besotted with TV reality programs, nightclubs, wine and champagne. But not everyone in India is happy about this new practice. While most people would regard Valentine’s Day as a harmless, light- hearted diversion, to extreme right-wing Hindus and ultra-nationalists, the holiday represents a dire threat to traditional Indian values and represent part of what they believe is a conspiracy by the west to destroy Indian culture. They also associate it with rampant globalisation and manipulation by western nations.

They say, Valentine’s Day is different from our Hindu culture and is corrupting the minds of teenagers. Beyond what they see as a form of “Cultural pollution” by westerners, some Indians are appalled by the fact that Valentine’s Day seems to celebrate pre-marital sex and open expressions of physical attraction which are taboo in India, a country that remains extremely conservative. But the moral custodians have failed to understand that without these days, the young generation is much more open to their desires to be with someone. Valentine’s Day actually has nothing to do with spoiling any minds.

Some oppose Valentine’s Day simply because it is associated with Christian theology. Even some Indian intellectuals and leftists, who share nothing in common with groups like Shiv Sena, also condemn Valentine’s Day as a form of western colonialism. The very sight of a man and a woman holding hands or kissing in public makes many Indians very uncomfortable!

One of the reasons behind this change of heart is the bad reputation they were getting. But gradually they all understood the point that by opposing the youngsters, they are just spoiling their own reputation but they cannot stop them from celebrating. So, this year they have subdued their opposition. There will be no protests or demonstrations against it, but at the same time youngsters should also behave decently.

Hindu fundamentalists have now got divided on the same; on the one hand Shiv Sena and Vishva Hindu Parisahd have decided not to oppose, Bajrang Dal will be on the lookout for couples carrying roses or canoodling at malls and parks. Bajrang Dal supposedly plans to deploy priests in parks to conduct shotgun wedding ceremonies if needed. Hindu Mahasabha’s campaign would not stop there. The group has formed teams to monitor social media for illicit professions of virtual ardour.

Anyone expressing their love on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp will be caught hold of. The right-wing groups are ideological cousins of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a radical Hindu organisation with close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The hard-line groups have stirred controversy in recent months by attempting to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism at mass camps, on the grounds that all Indians are Hindus and that their ancestors had been forced to change their religion. Hindu Mahasabha has also called on prominent Indian Muslim actors, including Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, to convert to Hinduism if “they loved their wives,” who are Hindus.

Be it Valentine’s Day or any other, no one has the right to do moral policing but when authorities, government and system become mute spectators, one takes its liberty in the name of custodians of religion. The Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (All India Hindu Assembly), a right-wing Hindu organisation, will observe Feb 14 as “Prem Vivah Diwas” or Love Marriage Day. The plan is to encourage love-struck young people, who are dating someone who aren’t Hindu, to come forward and get married. There’s one requirement — the person will need to convert to Hinduism. The Hindu group in the past has protested celebrations of Valentine’s Day, arguing that it is a western influence and against Indian culture. In previous years, members of the group have thrown tomatoes at young couples on Valentine’s Day who were spotted holding hands or embracing in public.

Other conservative Hindu organisations have also protested Valentine’s Day in the past. Actions like these have come in for widespread criticism. The issue has generated unease among minorities. In a Parliament session in 2014, opposition lawmakers protested against some Hindu groups for allegedly forcing religious minorities to convert to Hinduism. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has so far remained tight-lipped on the issue. His Bharatiya Janata Party, which has historic ties to conservative Hindu groups, has suggested the creation of a national law could help prevent forcible religious conversions.

The celebration of Valentine’s Day is getting increasingly popular in many non-western countries, particularly in India, where a surging middle class and the breakdown of traditional cultural mores are allowing more and more young people to observe such western holidays. But not everyone in India is happy about this practice. But who cares…..

Keep loving by saying no to Haters


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