David Ignatius, a Washington post journalist, in his article (In Egypt, the kids are not all right; February 16, 2013) talks about the ‘Ultras’ reckless soccer fans in Egypt, who have became a powerful political force. The same ultras played a powerful role in overthrowing Hosni Mubarak regime, and are back on roads challenging President Mohamed Morsi. These youths are in direct confrontation with the government and law and order system in Egypt giving rise to what can be termed as Mobocracy, crisply, lead by the youths.

Mobocracy can loosely be defined as a political system where group of people with similar orientation acts to control or dominate the masses. A probable reason for the rise of Mobocracy is attributed to the failure of liberal democracy to root itself in a civilized society, often due to political paralysis. However, in country like India where democracy is moderately sustainable; it has become a powerful tool to manipulate political objective of various political parties and its affiliates. Mobocracy, weaponed with its own set of doctrine and beliefs are in deep contrast with the basic features of tolerance in our democratic society.

It has exceptionally been used to champion the cause of religion, culture, tradition and indigenousness of our country. The perfect example is the February 14 of every year’s calendar; the day, people across the globe celebrates Valentine Day. A day, for the exchange of tokens of affection; all the same, in a crude sense a day, when people, mostly youths enjoy company of their possible partners. A certain group of people, however, reject Valentine Day as day to celebrate one’s affection. The opinion is one should not follow such day as it is not compatible, and hence alien to our tradition. Surely, this does not explain the actual reason behind refusal to accept the day, as this is merely not why anti- Valentine Day groups take law and order in their hand, moving around the country moral policing and threatening youth couples, at times forcefully marrying them.

Two elementary reasons are stated by protesters behind their objection- Valentine Day is a part of invasive western tradition, and secondly it is market promoted fête. The pro traditional, cultural campaigners who are against western influence in India, terms it as invasive western influence, which are corrupting our youth both morally and by intemperance or sensuality. The youth in the name of the love and affection are involved in activities which are sacrilegious to both tradition and our Indian culture. Indian tradition and culture does not promote any such public display of affection, and evenly does not encourage such activities. All in all, Indian culture and tradition does not support such celebration in our society as it profane to the customs we follow; therefore one should not submit to western influence, and as part of the impresario, protesters are inclined to resist such western influence in India, prepared to save Indian tradition and culture. However, such other kinds of specific days like Mothers Day, Fathers Day are never been publicly, as well as vociferously protested. The fact that Valentine Day is only invasive to Indian tradition is not perceivable even through minimum consideration.

Secondly, many protestors believe that Valentine Day is part of larger corporate scam or a commercial cliché. Greeting cards, candies, gifts and expensive day out in restaurants are more or less a part of overall market strategy to induce youth to expend more and more. The V-day has slowly shifted to V-week as it begins with Rose Day, followed by Proposal Day, Chocolate Day, Teddy Day, Promise Day, Kiss Day, Hug Day and Valentine's Day. According to an Industry report, this year’s valentine market is pegged at rupees 15 billion, almost 20 percent higher than last year’s expense. To an extent it is viable to see it a part of market strategy; but, Paradoxically, almost every traditional Indian festival is market influenced, may it be larger festival like Diwali and Holi or even smaller one’s like Karwa Chauth. Traditional way of celebration is superseded by new technological and expensive form of celebration, like electric light replacing normal candle and Diyas, Eco and skin friendly colors over tradition colors.

The reasons cited above alone, nevertheless, remain impertinent to protest Valentine Day. As, said earlier Mobocracy is a powerful tool to manipulate political objective. Valentine Day has become a major day of celebration, especially among youths, encouraging both celebration and protest. Majority of the protesters are youth, aligned to one or other political or social parties. Most of the Nationalist and radical parties, who often see political opportunity in promoting conventional culture and tradition, tend to employ Mobocracy to express their opposition for unconventional social practices. Tradition and culture become internal part of political business. The intolerant, violent, self righteous groups of people, who see themselves as crusader of their conventional practices, show intolerance to the degree that exceeds the bounds, reason or moderation. Violence, breach of Law and siege of right to freedom of expression becomes part of the Mobocracy. Further, political back up and legal complexities allow these groups to act according to their will. Political tools like Ban, street protest are also used to keep youth away from celebration. David says the ‘ultras’ have lost their respect for the social forces that were woven through traditional societies in Egypt; unfortunately, the intolerant youths in India too have lost respect for the social forces which taught us non violence and peace.

On this Valentine Day, world celebrated ‘one billion rising’ to protest violence against women, to mark their freedom of expression. However, unless and until, Mobocracy is strongly dealt, it will keep challenging our freedom, weakening democratic institutions which advocate for a tolerant democracy, promote diversity and debates.

Gaurav Kumar is an independent observer and analyst on Peace and conflict in South Asia. Email: gauravdixit04@gmail.com

More In: Comment | Opinion