If Hindu hardliners in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh have their way, this Valentine’s Day will really be one of love —- but with a saffron twist.
While those in Vadodara and Ahmedabad are preparing to celebrate February 14 as a day of “love and worship” for parents, Bajrang Dal members in Lucknow are planning to take priests along to “help” lovers in parks get married on the spot.
In Vadodara, followers of Asaram Bapu, the self-styled godman who is in jail on charges of rape, are leading a campaign with multi-faith posters depicting children celebrating the day with their parents under this caption: “Matru-Pitru Pujan Divas, Abba-Ammi Ibadat Divas and Parents Worship Day”.
Just so that people get the right message, the posters also have pictures of a policeman and a couple, with this caption: “Police taking strict action on public display of vulgarity on Valentine’s Day”.
The posters and hoardings of Asaram, promoting February 14 as Parents’ Worship Day, have been put up across the city by by Shri Yog Vedant Seva Samiti, an affiliate of his ashram. Samiti members said this campaign has been in place ever since Asaram first spoke of “Divine Valentines’ Day” in 2004.
In Ahmedabad, meanwhile, a new group called Dharma Raksha Manch, claiming no affiliation, has come out with posters of Shravan, who has been lauded in Hindu mythology for his love towards his blind parents, and those of Ganesha kneeling before his parents Shiva and Parvathi.
Invitations have also been sent to all schools and colleges in the city to join the first-ever “Mata-Pita Pujan Divas” at the Kankaria football ground from 2pm-5pm on February 14.
The three-hour event is being supported by other little-known organisations such as ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ and ‘Hindu Dharm Sabha’, and will impart “theoretical and practical” lessons to parents and children.
“Sermons from religious leaders on Indian culture will stress on respecting our parents. Children will be given training by brahmins who will recite shlokas and perform rituals to teach them how to greet, respect and worship their parents,” said Jayesh Gohel of Dharma Raksha Manch.
The Asaram campaign in Vadodara appears to be on similar lines. Girish Patel, secretary, Shri Yog Vedant Seva Samiti, said, “We have applied for permission to take this campaign to schools and campuses this year to educate students about the pure, selfless bond between children and parents.”
In Lucknow, meanwhile, Bajrang Dal’s wedding offer will be accompanied by “peaceful appeals” from Shiv Sena to avoid “Western culture”.
In the past, activists of both organisations have assaulted and misbehaved with couples found together at public places on Valentine’s Day.
They have also vandalised shops selling greeting cards, flowers and gifts to mark the occasion.
But according to Rakesh Verma, convenor, Bajrang Dal (Awadh region), “We will give the message this year that Bajrang Dal is not against love but Western culture. People are free to express love across the year but inside their homes and not at public places.”
Verma added that Bajrang Dal workers will take priests along with them to arrange weddings of couples with “recitation of mantras, exchange of garlands, sindoor and mangalsutra”. “If the couples do not agree, Bajrang Dal will ask them to leave the place after giving them images of Shiva and Parvathi as well as Krishna and Radha. We will appeal to them to express love like these gods,” he said.
UP’s Shiv Sena pramukh, Anil Singh, said that his organisation, too, has similar plans. “There will be no misbehaviour with couples at public places or any vandalism in shops and malls this year. We will decently ask them to avoid Western culture and Valentine’s Day,” he said.