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The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava reporting from Bombay
"Some rightwing Hindu organisations see Valentine's Day as a desecration of Indian culture"
 real 56k

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"Valentines Day is big business here"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 14 February, 2001, 16:21 GMT
Tough love for Indian Valentines
Shiv Sena activists in a Delhi restaurant
Hardliners break up a Valentine's party
Hindu hardliners in India have attacked shops and restaurants in an attempt to disrupt Valentine's Day celebrations.

They smashed shop windows and burnt Valentine cards in protest against the day, which they said was against Hindu culture.

The authorities have stepped up security around the country and the University of Lucknow shut down amid fears of violence.


It is totally contrary to Indian culture

Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray
But despite the protests, young lovers thronged malls and restaurants in major Indian cities as shopkeepers openly sold gifts and cards.

Activists from the hardline Shiv Sena party attacked the busy fast-food Wimpy restaurant in Delhi, throwing chairs and smashing plants.

The restaurant was hurriedly shut as terrified customers left.

Shops selling Valentine cards were also attacked in several other cities including Bombay, Bhopal, Pune and Bareilly.

In the northern city of Benaras, activists chopped the hair of several celebrating youths and blackened their faces, according to the Press Trust of India.

Love hurts

The campaign has been spearheaded by Bal Thackeray, the firebrand leader of the Shiv Sena.

"This shameless festival has been celebrated by our young people for the last 10 years," Mr Thackeray wrote in Shiv Sena's Saamna newspaper.

Hawker sells heart-shaped balloons in Delhi
But in many places it's business as usual

"But it is totally contrary to Indian culture," he added.

In Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state, university authorities said it was a "unanimous view" that they should close for the day.

Police and paramilitary troops were deployed across the state to prevent confrontation between Hindu activists and love-struck punters.

Defiant

These threats have dismayed many amorous young Indians eager to send gifts and cards on a day which has become extremely popular in India.


This occasion comes just once a year, why shouldn't we celebrate?

College student Nidhi Mehra
Valentine's Day was virtually unknown in India until a few years ago, but it has now become very popular among urban youth.

Many simply ignored the warnings as they bought roses and heart-shaped balloons.

"This occasion comes just once a year, why shouldn't we celebrate?" asked Nidhi Mehra, a Bombay college student.

"Do I look like I care about Shiv Sena?" queried Hemant Patodia, as he cuddled his girlfriend in Delhi's central Connaught Place shopping district.

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See also:

19 Jul 00 | South Asia
Profile: Bombay's militant voice
14 Feb 00 | South Asia
India takes Valentine's Day to heart
15 Jul 00 | South Asia
Hindu militant faces court
28 Jul 99 | South Asia
Poll ban for Hindu leader
04 Feb 00 | South Asia
Bangalore's Valentine bloom
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