Skip to main content

Anti-Valentine's Day push: Sectarian move to 'restrict, constrict' India's cultural milieu

By Ram Puniyani* 

Indian culture is diverse and plural. It has been enriching itself by accepting the diversity irrespective of religion or geographical boundaries. This gets reflected in all aspects of our life, be it food habits, clothes, art, architecture, social occasions, customs and religious traditions. This is the natural grain of any open and thriving society. With the rise of sectarianism the effort is to restrict and constrict our culture in particular. 
We are witnessing the ‘othering' of religious communities and there are attempts to distinguish between diverse aspects of our society into ‘our’ versus ‘from outside’. To sustain this, sectarian outfits are very proactive at occasions. At the same time symbols are being promoted to associate with ‘nationalism in the name of religion’.
The call given by the Animal Welfare Board India (AWBI) was an example of this type of campaign. AWBI in a circular gave a call that 14th February, instead of the usual Valentine's Day, should be celebrated as ‘Cow Hug Day’. It stated, “Hugging cows will bring emotional richness and increase individual and collective happiness”.
Union Rural Development minister Giriraj Singh endorsed the idea (February 9, 2023) by saying that everybody should love cows. This had twin goals. On one hand it was to promote the symbolism around cow and on the other it aimed to bypass the Valentine's Day. Symbolism around cow is a strong emotive aspect of Hindu nationalism and the Valentine's Day is looked as alien and immoral by this stream.
Promoting symbolism around Cow has picked up in last few years. Many Hindus do regard Cow as Holy, now state has jumped into the fray and restrictions on cow slaughter were aggressively brought forward in different states. This led on one hand to the phenomenon of lynching mainly of Muslims some Dalits. This also led to brutal flogging of four Dalits in Una in Gujarat. 
The Central Government is doing ‘research funding’ into Panchgavya, a mixture of cow milk, curd, ghee, cow-dung and cow-urine). Incidentally Veterinary and biochemical sciences have already done most of the basic study and research into various animal products.
In 2021 the Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (National Cow Board) under the Rural Development Ministry planned ‘Kamdhenu Gau Vigyan Prachar Prasar Exam’ (National Exam on Cow Science Propagation). This was later called off after public uproar. This Board was later disbanded. 
As the call was given for Cow Hug Day, many a social media posts ridiculed the idea. One video of BJP leader trying to caress the cow and she trying to hit back surfaced. The very notion of hugging cow was not taken lightly by many, as it is fraught with the possibility of accidents due to the bovine trying to hit back as not being so accustomed to strangers. 
This was a weird idea to promote love for cow, as India is also peaking as the leading exporter of beef in the world. Incidentally, the Malegaon blast accused Pragya Sing Thakur also dispensed her advice by asserting the caressing the cow, in the direction of her skin hairs reduces the blood pressure and surely with this Government plans may be afoot to undertake the research in this direction!
As such the groups associated with Hindu nationalism have been violently opposing the gifting and expressing one’s love on Valentine Day. Groups like Pramod Mutalik’s Shriram Sene and Bajrang Dal in particular have been beating couples moving together on this day. Anti-Valentine Day squads moved around, who not only harassed the couples but also tried to ransack the shops dealing in gifts for the day. Most of these groups do enjoy a sort of impunity.
It has been claimed that public expression of love is against ‘our culture’, our Hindu values. These ignorant foot soldiers and motivated leaders may be unaware of Vatsyana’s Kamsutra or the temples of Khajurahu and Konark with open expression of not only emotional love but also of erotica. 
One remembers the very successful ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign initiated by social groups. This was in response to ex-RSS pracharak Pramod Mutalik’s group beating up girls coming out from a Mangalore pub. Pink Chaddis were sent to Mutalik in large numbers. Such sectarian goups are not an isolated occurrence. Groups similar to Shri Ram Sene also came up in Saudi Arabia in particular at a point of time.
As such these groups are part of an oppressive, sectarian politics, which abhors free choice of youngsters in particular. Real reasons for this intolerant behaviour have to be looked for in their overall agenda to curtail liberalism, pluralism and to constrain the democratic ethos of the country. 
One recalls that Asaram Bapu, now cooling his heels in jail as rape convict, had mooted the idea of bypassing the Valentine's Day by celebrating 14th February as Matru-Pitru Pujan Divas (Mother-Father worship day). That was endorsed by the religious nationalists, but it also failed to take off.
The Valentine's Day, the day of expression of love, is globally very popular. It is not restricted to romantic, sexual love alone. The tradition of celebrating Valentine day goes back to early second century CE. There are many legends about St Valentine and two of them have some definitive history. 
 It seems that the early Christian Church had at least two saints bearing this name. As per one story Roman emperor Claudius II forbade young men to marry in the year 200 AD, as he had strong military ambition and he thought that single men made better soldiers. A priest by the name Valentine disobeyed the orders of the King by solemnizing the marriage of young couple's.
According to another legend, Valentine was an early Christian saint who was very affectionate to young children. He refused to worship Roman Gods and on that count and was imprisoned. 
Children missed his affection and love and tossed the notes containing love messages across the prison bars. According to many stories he was executed on 14th February. This day in due course came to be celebrated in his memory, as a tribute to his courage in defying the inhuman orders of the ruling kings; people started sending greetings and messages of love to their loved ones’. 
The origin of the customs is slightly shrouded due to its being very ancient. Also these customs started taking local hue in different countries wherever this day began to be celebrated.
In a World shrinking to be a global village one cannot fool around with bypassing the aspirations of society. It is as good that facing the criticism; the AWBI withdrew the call of Cow Hug day!
*Political commentator



Importance of Bangladesh for India amidst 'growing might' of China in South Asia

By Samara Ashrat*  The basic key factor behind the geopolitical importance of Bangladesh is its geographical location. The country shares land borders with Myanmar and India. Due to its geographical position, Bangladesh is a natural link between South Asia and Southeast Asia.  The country is also a vital geopolitical ally to India, in that it has the potential to facilitate greater integration between Northeast India and Mainland India. Not only that, due to its open access to the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh has become significant to both China and the US.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'BBC film shows only tip of iceberg': Sanjiv Bhatt's daughter speaks at top US press club

By Our Representative   The United States' premier journalists' organisation, the National Press Club (NPC), has come down heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recent "attacks on journalists in India." Speaking at the screening of an episode of the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question,” banned in India, in the club premises, NPC President Eileen O’Reilly said, “Since Modi came to power we have watched with frustration and disappointment as his regime has suppressed the rights of its citizens to a free and independent news media."

Chinese pressure? Left stateless, Rohingya crisis result of Myanmar citizenship law

By Dr Shakuntala Bhabani*  A 22-member team of Myanmar immigration officials visited Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar to verify more than 400 Rohingya refugees as part of a pilot repatriation project. Does it hold out any hope for the forcibly displaced people to return to their ancestral homes in the Rakhine state of Myanmar? Only time will tell.

China ties up with India, Bangladesh to repatriate Rohingyas; Myanmar unwilling

By Harunur Rasid*  We now have a new hope, thanks to news reports that were published in the Bangladeshi dailies recently. Myanmar has suddenly taken initiatives to repatriate Rohingyas. As part of this initiative, diplomats from eight countries posted in Yangon were flown to Rakhine last week. Among them were diplomats from Bangladesh, India and China.

Over-stressed? As Naveen Patnaik turns frail, Odisha 'moves closer' to leadership crisis

By Sudhansu R Das  Not a single leader in Odisha is visible in the horizon who can replace Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He has ruled Odisha for nearly two and half decades. His father, Biju Patnaik, had built Odisha; he was a daring pilot who saved the life of Indonesia’s Prime Minister Sjahrir and President Sukarno when the Dutch army blocked their exit.

Natural farming: Hamirpur leads the way to 'huge improvement' in nutrition, livelihood

By Bharat Dogra*  Santosh is a dedicated farmer who along with his wife Chunni Devi worked very hard in recent months to convert a small patch of unproductive land into a lush green, multi-layer vegetable garden. This has ensured year-round supply of organically grown vegetables to his family as well as fetched several thousand rupees in cash sales.

Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Ban Ki-moon, others ask Bangladesh PM to 'protect' Yunus

Counterview Desk  A campaign has been launched to support Bangladesh-based economist, micro-finance guru and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, seeking signatures from citizens across the globe in order to “protect” his work, life and safety.

Electricity sharing opens up new window for India’s eastern neighbourhood engagement

By Sufian Asif* Today, challenges like climate change, pandemics, energy reliance, economic crisis, and many more are concerning us. No nation can overcome these obstacles without the assistance and collaboration of other nations. Most importantly, many of these problems have international repercussions. South Asia is facing much more difficulty when compared to other regions. In South Asia, we have some regional organizations, but they are ineffective.