India is a land of many controversies—love, or more specifically the expression of it, is one of them. Fundamentalist groups of different religions—such as the Ram Sena in Mangalore and Dukhtaran-e-Millat in Jammu & Kashmir—have created a huge hue and cry about the inappropriateness of celebrating Valentine's Day in India.
I didn't care much about Valentine's Day. Frankly, I didn't even know that there existed something called Valentine's Day until the mid 90s when I went to Hyderabad for my Bachelor's degree. Since I was very good with general knowledge (GK) and regularly won prizes in GK competitions at school, I think I'll attribute my childhood ignorance about Valentine's Day to it not being a major part of Indian culture until the 90s. As far as my understanding goes, Valentine's day became popular in India only during the 90s with the onset of cable television and after the Indian economy opened itself up to the outside world. Many people sure must have been celebrating Valentine's day prior to the 90s but I guess it must have been an affair only amongst the urban elite.
The commercialization of love with Valentine's day cards, gifts, roses and red balloons surely turns many people off. The people who are put off includes not just religious fundamentalists like Pramod Muthalik (Sri Ram Sena's chief) and Asiya Andrabi (the leader of Dukhtaran-e-Millat), but also liberal citizens in India and the West. A commercialization that creates pressure on people to gift a dozen roses as if one rose meant less or inferior love, is something that should be deplored. But that does not give anyone the right to be violent with anyone. So when I hear news about religious fundamentalists in India harassing young couples on Valentine's day, I feel violated. I get mad when Asiya Andrabi's group threatened to throw acid on women who celebrate Valentine's day and don't wear burkhas in Kashmir. I get mad when I learn about incidents of Hindu goons going on a street rampage, harassing young couples, and destroying property.
I may not have been much of a Valentine's Day celebrator, but I don't think there is anything immoral with Valentine's Day celebration either; it's after all a festival of love—the same love that is epitomized in the shringar ras of Lord Krishna. Valentine's Day per se may have been alien to India, but the emotion of love is not. For that matter, even the so called dirty word "sex" is part of our rich Indian heritage. We are the land of the kamasutra. I know of no other country and no other religion where places of worship have explicit depiction of sexual positions.
Come on Mr. Muthalik, let's celebrate love. Let's celebrate love making. It is the core of being Indian—after all we did not become over a billion strong just out of thin air. I guess you (and your likes) are not upset with love and sex, but with the Western connection of Valentine's day. Now, that's fine, but don't get violent because of that—by doing so you are only alienating people who would otherwise have been your staunch supporters. For example, I am not in favor of the propagation of the pub culture and would support campaigns that discourage alcohol consumption among youth. However, you and your organization members have pissed me off very badly by, because of attacking and harassing pub goers in Mangalore. In fact, your despicable acts has pissed me so much that I was a Valentine's day enthusiast this year. I distributed chocolates to all my friends whom I met on Valentine's day. Unfortunately, I didn't have my Valentine around me, but if I did I would have painted the whole town red.
Yes, Mr. Muthalik you are succeeding in converting people, but only in the opposite direction of what you intended. By coercing and threatening people with violence, you are only creating a rebellious generation. That is the only reason, you were the recipient of thousands of pink chaddies (panties) this Valentine's day. You may have returned the chaddies with pink sarees, but what would you do if you received soiled and sperm stained chaddies next time?
If you really want to get rid of Valentine's day, why don't you use something more intelligent and less coercive? For a start, you could change the name of Valentine's day to (say) Kishen Kanhaiya Day—after all changing Western names to Indian ones has been the core responsibility for Indian politicians in the last decade. If Victoria Terminal could become Chatrapati Shivaji Terminal, why cannot Valentine's Day become Kishen Kanhaiya Day? You may not be a politician, but you could campaign for such name changes, and politicians would be happy to oblige. And you know what, you could spend your supporters' money in collaborating with an advertising agency that will make the Krishna's color of blue as hip as red. For all you know, Pepsi may sponsor your campaign for a blue makeover of Valentine's day and you won't have to depend on street ruffians to collect money for you. Now don't think I'm just making fun of you (and the Indian politcians) by giving such bizarre suggestions—of course, I am making fun of all of you, but there is a note of seriousness in it as well. You can change people only through persuasion, not through coercion. Even the bizarrest and and seemingly stupid attempts of persuasion are better than acts of coercion, harassment or violence.