The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Why there’s a war on Valentine’s Day in India

Shiv Sena Samajwadi activists set fire to a placard Feb. 11 during a demonstration denouncing Valentine's Day in Amritsar, India. (Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)

The day of love -- Valentine's Day -- attracts a lot of hate in India.

Each year, as heart-shaped balloons fill the streets of metropolitan cities, a small but vocal minority aggressively opposes any V-Day celebrations. Unlike one group in Japan that is against the "passion-based capitalism" that fuels the holiday, those opposing it in India are conservative groups protesting against the Western values they believe Valentine's Day represents.

[Lonely Japanese men protest the ‘blood-soaked conspiracy’ of Valentine’s Day]

The actions against the holiday include vandalism (where mobs break coffee tables and windows in restaurants), moral policing, calls to ban any celebrations, and threats of violence against couples who display public affection.

The group that has gained the most attention this year for its opposition to Valentine's Day is the Hindu Mahasabha. The extreme right-wing group plans to marry off singles who declare their love for each other, either in person or through social media.

The president of the organization, Chandra Prakash Kaushik, said that his group would monitor social media sites and when they see couples professing their love, they will ask them to get married. If the couples do not consent, the group plans to "contact their parents — especially those who are active online — and ask them to get them married if they really love each other.” 

Many on Twitter poked fun at the group's goal:

Valentine's Day is a relatively new entrant to the very many celebrations -- religious and secular -- in India. Those against the holiday see it as a Western import. Hindu Mahasabha leader Kaushik said that it conflicts with Indian traditions, and in particular with Hindu values.

Kaushik told IBN Live:

"We are not against love, as we are the country which has spread love all over the world, but we are against the Western influence on our society, and by offering white flowers we will be spreading the message of peace."

Protests against Valentine's Day have grown as Hindu fundamental groups gain momentum in India. Opposing interracial marriages has become a cornerstone of their agenda, and "love jihad," the idea that Muslim men are trying to marry Hindu women and forcing them to convert to Islam, has become a huge talking point for right-wing groups.

While the Hindu Mahasabha will attempt to push couples to wed, they also will hand out white flowers to couples seen in restaurants or shopping malls on Feb. 14. Other groups, such as the Hindu fundamentalist Shiv Sena, has made threats of violence and said it would teach "love birds a lesson."

Despite the opposition, Valentine's Day will still be celebrated across the country. But if the Hindu Mahasabha has its way, there just may be more weddings this year.