Despite protests, it's roses all the way

CULTURE POLICE: An activist of the Forum Against Social Evils manhandles a youth inside a restaurant during an anti-Valentine's Day campaign in Srinagar on Wednesday.

CULTURE POLICE: An activist of the Forum Against Social Evils manhandles a youth inside a restaurant during an anti-Valentine's Day campaign in Srinagar on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: AFP

Shiv Sena, VHP, Bajrang Dal burn cards on Valentine's Day

New Delhi: Young and not-so-young lovers across the country celebrated Valentine's Day on Wednesday, undeterred by protests in several places by Sangh Parivar outfits and radical groups that described it as a Western phenomenon which corrupted the youth.

Activists of the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena , the students' wing of the Shiv Sena, beat up employees of two outlets dealing in car batteries in Pune for distributing greeting cards and roses. Members of the Sena, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal played spoilsport for couples romancing in public parks in Rajasthan and burnt stacks of cards and gifts. The Sena held protests in Punjab.

In Connaught Place, restaurants tried to score points by offering special discounts and even flowers and soft toys to lure lovers in.

There were helicoper rides for those who came up with the "wackiest way to propose" and Maharaja-style elephant rides for the love-struck who scribbled the mushiest messages on a ``love billboard'' at the city's Moolchand flyover.

In Mumbai, there was the usual buzz with bouquets and gifts exchanging hands. Even pets had it good, with an animal salon playing cupid to ``dog couples,'' offering them free aroma therapy sessions. Some youngsters sought to reinforce their love with gifts, flowers and jewellery, notwithstanding an opportunistic hike in their prices. In Chandigarh, the tight vigil by police and the soggy weather hit the celebrations. The Panjab University turned into a virtual fortress with two of its three entry gates remaining closed till late afternoon. Entry into the campus was allowed only after a thorough checking of students' identity cards.

The inclement weather, however, did not deter policemen, who were out in full strength across the city to prevent rowdyism. The strict arrangements made by police did not go down well with youngsters.

"The cops should not wield their stick on Valentine's Day. Law and order should be maintained as a routine. Why should all eyes remain focused on those who are celebrating the occasion? It spoils the fun," said Raghav, who was out with his friend Shweta. In Phagwara, Shiv Sena activists made a bonfire of Valentine's Day cards outside a cremation ground on Banga Road and shouted slogans.

Activists of the Shiv Sena, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and other groups organised protests at several places in Jaipur. In Jodhpur, they threatened to stop hotels and restaurants from organising special events and also burnt gifts and cards in Kota, Udaipur and Bhilwara.

In Rajasthan, mutiplexes did good business with couples thronging screenings of the romantic comedy "Salaam-e-Ishq." Faced with threats from various groups, the youth played it safe by watching films.

Raj Bansal, a leading film distributor, told PTI, "for the past two years, because of various warnings and threats couples think it safe to watch movies on Valentine's Day.'' PTI

Cards burnt

Shujaat Bukhari reports from Srinagar:

The Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief, Asiya Andrabi, on Wednesday led a protest against Valentine's Day celebrations with the group chasing couples in hotels and burning cards and gifts in Srinagar.

Ms. Andrabi, who is an executive of the Forum Against Social Evils (FASE), led its activists into several restaurants and delivered lectures to young boys and girls.

"There is no place for Valentine's Day celebrations in an Islamic society like ours and the Kashmiri culture. Such events lead to immorality in society," she said adding that such celebrations were part of the cultural invasion by the West. She urged girls to follow the teachings of Islam and to avoid mingling with boys.

The few couples present in the restaurants felt Ms. Andrabi's speech was an "intrusion into their private lives." "The day is not meant for romance only, it is a celebration among friends," said a teenage girl.

Ms. Andrabi said that it was a new phenomenon in Kashmir and had to be curbed because of its ill effects on society.

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