February 14, 2006

Moral police burn Valentine’s Day cards in India

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Hardline Hindu groups and radical
Muslims burned Valentine's Day greeting cards and held sporadic
protests on Tuesday across India against celebrating the
festival of love saying it was a Western import that spread

Saint Valentine's Day has become increasingly popular in
India in recent years, a trend led by retailers who do healthy
business selling heart-shaped balloons and fluffy teddy bears.

But the growing popularity of the day in officially
secular, but mainly Hindu India has also sparked protests which
have sometimes turned violent.

On Tuesday, protests were held in the capital New Delhi,
some towns in the south of the country and its only Muslim
state of Jammu and Kashmir, where an Islamic insurgency has
raged since 1989.

About two dozen women separatists, veiled in black from
head to toe, rummaged shops and burned Valentine's Day cards in
Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, witnesses said.

"Valentine's Day spreads immorality among the youth," Asiya
Andrabi of the Dukhtaran-e-Milat (Daughters of the Muslim
Faith), a group of women separatists, said in a statement.

"We appeal to our children to stay away from this western

In Bangalore, India's technology capital, as well as Hubli
town, both located in the southern state of Karnataka, groups
of Hindu nationalists burned a big heart-shaped card.

About 50 Hindu activists wearing holy saffron-colored
scarves held a noisy protest in a popular market near the Delhi
University campus, a Reuters photographer said.

They burned greeting cards which they were carrying and
shouted "Down with Valentine's Day."

(Additional reporting by Sheikh Mushtaq in SRINAGAR)