A handful of youth Bajrang Dal activists wearing saffron robes, some holding daggers, raise slogans: Jai Shree Ram- a Hindu God believed to be an embodiment of righteousness and morality. It could have been disturbing sign or moment for the Muslims.
But, strangely right-wing Hindu organization got online support from many Muslims for the reason: the right- wing activists were protesting against Valentine Day celebrations in Jammu.
About 20 activists of the Bajrang Dal move around the Bagh-e-Bahu- a sprawling public park on the banks of the river Tawi often visited by young couples. A handful of police personnel and media persons accompanied them. Few activists raised slogans, which though got drowned in the vast expanse, about five square kilometer of the park.
“We won’t allow valentine day to be celebrated in the city of temples- Jammu. It’s corrupting the youth and is against Hindu culture… It should rather be observed as Shaheed Bhagat Singh day,” said Rakesh Sharma, state unit president Bajrang Dal. Bhagat Singh was apparently picked up to fit in the narrative of ‘nationalism’.
The video of this protest was posted online by a Jammu based newspaper on its website. It soon started drawing response. The majority of the comments were from Muslims with almost all of them supporting this action of the Hindu organization.
“Islam ka dusra naam haya hai, aur valentine day be-hayai he be-hayai hai ( the other name of Islam is modesty while valentine day is sheer immodesty ),” posted Liyaqat Ali, supporting the protest.
Muslims posted majority of the comments with not even a single supporting the observance of the day. Though some did have reservations about daggers carried by the protestors and not their intent. The opposing comments were posted by some Hindus terming it as just politics.
“Feb 14 should be observed as day of Modesty’ was another comment posted, with a picture of a girl draped in white dupata.
SHO Bagh-e-Bahu said some activists of the Bajrang Dal raised some slogans but their protest went off peacefully.
The protests were just symbolic not reflecting the mood across the city. The gift shops were decorated with heart shaped cut outs and stacked with red roses doing brisk business. Restaurants, eating joints were packed with young couple, though some were a bit nervous about possible gate crashing by such protestors.
Bajrang Dal leader attempting to appear aggressive in front of camera had a distorted a historical sense of the day and it can’t be said if it was deliberate or his poor knowledge of the history.
“It started about 1600-year ago. A man named Valentine, who later became priest, had arranged some love marriages. He was hanged for this act by the then Roman king,” said Rakesh Sharma.
Though, the popular belief about Valentine is he had opposed the ban on marriages by Roman emperor Claudius II, who believed that married men were bad soldiers. Valentine finding it unfair had arranged marriages secretly and was sentenced to death for it.
Many Hindus supporting it posted one liner comment ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and curiously this post was followed by a comment by a Muslim writing: good.
Some termed the protests as ‘cheap’ publicity stunts while some said if they are so serious then they should protest against rapes rather than against this day.