Hindu rightwing groups are all set to play spoilsport on Valentine's Day in Bhopal on Saturday by threatening to marry off young lovers or giving them a good beating. But a lawyers' outfit and some political parties say they will not let the "moral police" get away with it.
The Hindu groups say Valentine's Day is against Indian culture. They have even performed 'shastra puja' at a number of places to display sticks that they say will be used against couples spotted together at public places on the day.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and associated rightwing groups have said they will not spare youths spotted celebrating Valentine's Day in Bhopal. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Madhya Pradesh is part of the larger saffron brotherhood.
Like last year, the Hindu organisations have also announced they will marry off young couples found romancing or meeting in public places like in parks and restaurants on Feb 14.
"We will catch hold of couples meeting in public places, parks and restaurants and get them married. If they refuse to marry, the woman will have to tie a 'rakhi' (a thread symbolising the brother-sister bond) on the man," said Bajrang Dal leader Rajendra Gupta.
"Couples will be more afraid of being married off than of being scolded, beaten or faces being blackened," he said, adding that after a wedding ceremony the boys and girls would be handed over to their families.
But now a new line of defence has come up for young lovers. Some groups, including the National Students Union of India (NSUI), and a group of lawyers say they will guard those wanting to meet their Valentine.
The Madhya Pradesh Youth Congress, Rashtriya Secular Manch, Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Nationalist Mahila Congress say they will all oppose the rightwing activists.
The Qanooni Brigade (Law Brigade), made up of lawyers, is ready to counter the moral police by offering legal help.
"Never have we seen such show of devotion and aggression on a day dedicated to love. We will file cases against them (the moral police) in respective police stations. If no action is taken, our forum will file cases against them in court," said Raj Kumar Pandey, founder, Qanooni Brigade.
"NSUI workers will first inform police in case anyone is harassed and if police fail to act, we will be forced to take action," said former NSUI state secretary Abhay Kushal Tiwari.
Officials say police have been deployed in hotels, restaurants and picnic spots across the state in view of warnings issued by the Bajrang Dal and other groups.
"We will not let anyone interfere in the personal freedom of a person. Action will be taken against anybody trying to violate the law," said Superintendent of Police Jaideep Prasad in Bhopal.