Scores of young couples flocked to the much-fancied romantic landscape of Chennai- the Marina beach- on Saturday to celebrate Valentine’s Day amid a mini-marathon along the marine sea-face this morning by sturdy pairs giving it an extra dash of colour.
But the festivities were marred by sporadic protests in parts of Tamil Nadu by pro-Hindutva fringe groups, who spoilt the mood of many a kindred soul. Police arrested at least 160 proclaimed “culture savers”, who sought to play the ‘moral police’ right down to towns in the deep South.
“It is a beautiful, sublime feeling; an opportunity to know and respect each other’s tender side,” said Nithya a young techie woman as she shared her sandwiches in a tiffin-box with Satish, a techie friend of hers, in a mild public display of affection in the city.
Such couples were soon in for a rude shock, after a private institute here had sponsored a ‘mini marathon’ of young and middle-aged enthusiasts – some of them even sporting the red heart logo on their shirts as a symbol of love-, on the beach road. The ‘marathon’ was inaugurated by the Chennai Corporation Commissioner and ruling DMK senior, Mr. M. Subramanian.
However, things took an unseemly turn when near the ‘Kannagi’ statue on the Marina sands – the iconic Tamil heroine of chastity-, when a small group of saffron outfits- the ‘Hanuman Sena and Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK)- activists, strongly protested against V-day with abusive slogans. Police quickly applied brakes on their procession and rounded them up, even as this did not deter some couples on the beach from exchanging kisses.
The protests ridiculing V-day as a “cultural intrusion” and an “appendage of Western decadence” saw more vocal manifestations in the Districts. In Nagercoil down South in Kanniyakumari district, some pro-Hindutva activists performed a “mock wedding” to a male and female dog. “We are not against romantic love or lovers; we only condemn the blind importation of Western cultural norms,” said Mr. Madhusudana Perumal, Organizing Secretary of the ‘Hindu Mahasabha’ in Nagercoil.
In Madurai, about 450 km from Chennai, Shiv Sena activists paraded its main roads, tearing and burning Valentine-Day cards. In the Western belt of Darapuram, and Tiruppur, groups of BJP and HMK activists got “two donkeys to tie the knot” in a bid to lampoon V-day couples.
In the textile city of Coimbatore, where the saffron party has a strong presence, the protests took a more serious turn as some members of the HMK, chased away several couples from the ‘VOC Park’ there. Police later arrested the activists though it did not lead to any major untoward incident.
“Observance of Valentine’s Day is unwarranted and unjustified in India. It has no relevance here, for at no point in our history were marriages banned,” fumed Mr. H. Raja, BJP’s State General Secretary, speaking to HT over telephone from Coimbatore. where he addressed a rally this evening in memory of the Feb 1998 serial blast victims there.