This February 14, the Shiv Sena has decided to continue performing its self-appointed role as the city’s moral conscience-keeper. The party has said that it will protest against any form of vulgarity in the name of Valentine’s Day, which falls on Saturday.
“Our stand is clear. If there is any form of vulgarity in parties or programmes we’ll protest,” said Abhijit Panse a member of the Sena’s student wing, the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena (BVS). “We’ve requested colleges to ensure there are no Valentine’s Day events.”
The Sena unit in Aurangabad has issued a warning to couples not to resort to “obscene” activities on roads or college campuses. “We will blacken faces of those who do it,” BVS has said in Aurangabad.
The Sena had vandalised shops selling V-Day greeting cards and merchandise in 2003 and 2006. In 2008, they threatened to repeat this but shopkeepers kept their displays subtle to ensure there are no untoward incidents.
The recent attacks on women in Mangalore and the threat to monitor Valentine’s Day by the saffron moral brigade, the Sri Ram Sene, have sparked fears that it will inspire local units of saffron parties like the Sena and Bajrang Dal to embark on a moral patrol, read violence, as they have done in the past.
The Bajrang Dal has decided to adopt a softer approach this time. “There are so many issues facing the country today,” said Umesh Gaikwad, spokesperson for Bajrang Dal’s Mumbai unit. “We are opposed to Valentine’s Day but we do not believe in violent ways of showing that. We would rather explain to the youth that this is not our culture.”
The Maharashtra Navnir-man Sena (MNS) has decided to stay away from what has been the Sena’s baby. “We are not opposed to the festival and we have no objections with anyone celebrating it,” MNS spokesperson Nitin Sardesai told Hindustan Times.
Also, MNS chief Raj Thackeray has always maintained, even while he was with the Sena, that he had no objections to V-Day celebrations. With polls approaching, parties like the Nationalist Congress Party have come up with a plan to counter the Sena’s tactics and woo the youth — by distributing Valentine’s Day cards.
Members of the Nationalist Youth Congress have set up a shop on Ram Maruti Road in Thane (west) that sells greeting cards and other gifts like teddy bears and showpieces on discount till Valentine’s Day. “The idea is to fight the forces who are trying to create Taliban in India,” said Amit Nandgaonkar, Thane president of Nationalist Youth Congress. “So we have started a shop to spread the message of love. It’s not just a girlfriend-boyfriend kind of love but also love for your brother or sister, parents and love for your country. I don’t think this is against our culture.”
But for the Sena, which has the Marathi manoos and Hindu culture on top of its priority list, there’s no backing out. “This is not about politics,” insisted Panse. “This is a corruption of our culture by multi-national companies. We’re not opposed to love but we don’t need Valentine’s Day for that. Do we need Mother’s Day to show our mothers we love them?”
Meanwhile, KL Prasad, joint commissioner of police (Law and Order) said the police will make adequate arrangements to ensure safety of citizens. Security arrangements in the city will be finalised on Thursday. “We will deal with miscreants strictly,” he said.
(With inputs from Naresh Kamath)