Hardline Hindu groups threaten Indian couples on Valentine's Day

Hardline Hindu groups who say they are fighting Western influences threatened Tuesday to beat up young couples in India who exchange Valentine's Day cards or gifts.

Valentine's Day, which falls on Wednesday, has become increasingly popular in predominantly Hindu India over the last decade. Shops in most big cities are draped in pink and red ribbons, and heart-shaped balloons, chocolates and flowers sell briskly.

"We request young couples not to visit parks and restaurants or organize parties on Valentine's Day. Those who do not listen to us will be beaten up," Ved Prakash Sachchan, the convener of the militant Hindu group Bajrang Dal, told The Associated Press in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state.

"In the name of Valentine's Day, there is an attempt to westernize Indian culture and we will not allow this to happen," he added.

Hindu activists also have put up billboards across Lucknow asking young lovers not to hold hands in public.

Traditional Indian society does not approve of public displays of affection between the sexes, including hand-holding and kissing.

Another Hindu hardline organization, the Shiv Sena, has said it will photograph couples caught in supposed compromising positions and hand over the pictures to their parents. Volunteers will stake out public parks, cinemas and shopping malls to "keep an eye on young people," Vijay Tiwari of the Shiv Sena said.

In the past, Hindu nationalists have accosted young couples and vandalized shops selling Valentine's Day cards and gifts, reports AP.

The state government has said that security officials will make sure that no one is harassed.

"We cannot allow anyone to take the law into his own hands in the name of cultural policing," said Home Secretary R.M. Srivastava.

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