India: All is not well on Valentine Day
Syed Ali Mujtaba
The Valentine Day celebration in India on February 14 is turning out to be an interesting event to be watched. A flurry of activities is taking place on in both the camps for and those against the V Day celebrations and clash looks imminent by the kind of posturing that are going on in the run up to it.
The Sri Ram Sene has taken up the responsibility of moral policing the society and has issued statements against this western concept and is preparing to distribute Mangalsutra, Rakhi and Sari, to stress the point of preserving Indian culture.
The young brigade who are “waiting for a chance for Oh Alice,” and are all set to “break free” on that day has come up with idea to distribute “Pink underwear’s” to the watchdogs of Indian society.
Normally, around this time every year, the Shiv Sena in Mumbai comes out into open and starts issuing warnings against February 14 celebration. Its foot solider spread across the country take upon the mantel of oral policing and would normally create raucous, vandalizing shops selling V Day cards and gift items to hog the limelight of being the moral policemen of India.
Surprisingly, this time the theater of this activity has shifted to Bangalore and other cities of Karnataka. Here the Sri Ram Sene has taken the responsibility of moral policing and has warned to slap back to sanity all those deviating from the Indian culture.
The Sri Ram Sene that was on forefront of the moral policing by attacking pubs in Mangalore, has announced that its activists would be making rounds in the public places in Bangalore and other places looking for couples celebrating Valentines day. Their foot soldiers would be armed with Mangalsutra and Rakhi giving the couple a choice between the two.
Mangalsutra is a necklace that is worn by married woman in India and normally the husband ties around her neck at the time of the marriage. Rakhi on the other hand is a wrist band that a sister ties to the wrist of her brother on the occasion of this festival.
The Sri Ram Sene has announced that it will compel the couple choose between the two and if they want to be lovers, then the boy has to put the Mangalsutra round the girl’s neck and solemnize the marriage ceremony. If the couple has aversion towards it, then the girl would ask to tie the Rakhi on the wrist of the boy and accept each other as brother and sister.
A new twist to this controversy has emerged, as young brigade have organized themselves through the social networking sites like face book and Orkut and have plans to combat the Sri Ram Sene’s threat on the V Day.
In just few days a new Group has emerged on the Internet and people from all parts of the country are getting enthused to join the campaign for the V day celebrations.
With over 3,000 members, the Group has bloomed into a full-fledged campaign and has decided to give Pink underwear to the Sri Ram Sene activists who may come to disturb the V Day celebration.
Nisha Susan, one of the founders of the Group says they have decided to hit back against those who were capitalizing on fear. “It has been a very hectic time since last few days and there is unexpected surge of interest in our campaign. We are organizing a press conference in Banglore on Friday 13th February 2009, and at least 500 pink under wears, would be on display as a mark of our protest against the so called moral policemen. Asked why Pink? The reply came it symbolizes being “Gay.”
The Sri Ram Sene camp seems to be unperturbed of the activities against it and bent to be in a combative mood. They are planning to display Sari, to counter pink under wear campaign calling it a symbol of traditional Indian wear for women.
One of the members of Sri Ram Sene has reportedly said, “Sari symbolizes woman of Indian culture and they would be distributing it to those girls who would turn out that day dressed in western attires.”
Given the strident campaign building up for and against the Valentine Day celebrations in India, one can see the storm brewing up below the social surface. The posturing and counter posturing is giving sleepless night to the security force. The Karnataka police have issued a strict warning to all those who are bent to disturb public peace. It has warned the Hindu extremist group that they would be sternly dealt with if they create any problems on the valentine day.
Notwithstanding the facts that elaborate security arrangements have been made for the V day celebrations, there is a lurking fear that mob violence erupting in some places in the country. It is certain that all is not well on Valentine Day in India.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org