Gangs of hooligans roamed many of the small towns across the country targeting young couples on Valentine’s Day though Mumbai and the other metros were largely incident-free.
In Pune, three young couples on bikes were forced to exchange garlands. The police said they could do nothing as no formal complaint had been made. In Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, a girl and her brother were roughed up by a mob of Bajrang Dal activists who took them for lovers out celebrating Valentine’s Day.
Suspected Shiv Sainiks married off a youth to a donkey at Miraj, Sangli, after they caught him walking with a woman. The faces of young couples were blackened in Aurangabad.
Mumbai was trouble free as around 1,000 Shiv Sainiks were rounded up overnight. Most of those detained were involved in the last few years’ protests on Valentine’s Day. Policemen in plainclothes were deployed near colleges, beaches, gifts shops, multiplexes, malls and popular hangouts for couples.
The Shiv Sena, however, gave its own spin to the lack of protests.“It seems that the city youth are returning to Indian culture and this is nice. We hope they won’t deviate from this path,” said Arun Dudhwadkar, Shiv Sena Vibhag pramukh from south Mumbai.
The three couples who were forced to get ‘married’ in Pune were cornered by suspected Shiv Sainiks near the Khadakvasla dam. Police Inspector Satish Patil said no action was taken as there was no “official complaint” and that cops were out to prevent “indecent behaviour” by couples. Mobs also burnt greeting cards near the Symbiosis campus and near Garware College.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said that strict action would be taken against those involved in violence on Valentine’s Day.
With Sri Rama Sene leader Pramodh Muthalik and nearly 700 members of his men in custody, young couples had it easy in Mangalore and Bangalore. Posses of policemen stood guard near colleges and malls.
“It is rather a quiet V-Day. My friends and I chose some safe places. All of us are dressed in white to convey a message of peace,” a young student in Mangalore told HT.
In Bangalore, a coalition of organisations called “Defend the Right to love” drew people from all walks of life, during a protest march. “It was a sort of celebration for reclaiming public space. Most of us landed up in pubs after the march,” says Lawrence Liang, a member of Alternate Law Forum.