When commuters boarded the Delhi Metro Monday, they were greeted by an advertisement campaign of a religious group which proposed celebrating Valentine’s Day as ‘Matri Pitri Pujan Diwas’ and endorsed police action against couples displaying their love in public.
Billboards and posters, put up across stations on the busy Yellow and Blue Lines, drew a sharp contrast between two young children “worshipping” their parents and a file photo of a couple being punished by police for celebrating Valentine’s Day in a public park in Raipur.
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The advertisements by a group called Bal Sanskar Kendra went on to offer “help” and asked parents to send their children to them to inculcate “achhe sanskar” (good values).
The “inspiration” for the idea is said to be self-styled godman Asaram Bapu who is lodged in jail in connection with the rape of a minor. Asaram’s picture looms above the two contrasting images with Valentine’s Day struck out in red.
In some other advertisements, children from different communities are seen paying obeisance to their parents.
As pictures of the campaign went viral on social media, Delhi Metro ordered an inquiry into the allotment of the advertisements.
“The Delhi Metro always endeavours to ensure that the advertisements displayed inside the Delhi Metro trains or premises have no objectionable or indecent portrayal of people, products etc. The advertisements were displayed by a private contractor as all the advertising space inside the Delhi Metro premises are allotted to specialised agencies who in turn allot them to interested advertisers. The matter is being thoroughly examined and taken up with the contractor concerned for appropriate necessary action,” Anuj Dayal, Executive Director, Corporate Communications, said.
Officials said that the advertisements are most likely to be pulled down, though members of Bal Sanskar Kendra maintained they had paid for the advertisements to be up until February 14.
“We are not aware of any directive to pull down the advertisements. We have already paid Delhi Metro for this and have put up posters and hoardings across 50 Metro stations, mostly on the busy Yellow and Blue Line for awareness among commuters. We believe the day should be observed as Matri Pitri Pujan Diwas and not Valentine’s Day,” said D N Singh, a functionary of Bal Sanskar Kendra.
“This is already observed in Chhattisgarh and should be done in Delhi too. We have organised a massive gathering at Ramlila Maidan on Sunday where children will come with their parents and we will observe the day. That is our culture,” Singh said.
Ritesh Sharma, a regular commuter, said, “It is ironical that the Delhi Metro, a symbol of development, has such regressive advertisements. When I saw these on my way to work this morning, I was in shock.”