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Dilemma over Valentine day
By M H Lakdwala

Muslims in Mumbai were in dilemma last week. With the culture of celebrating Valentine day taking roots in the community, the elders from the community are worried. 

Muslims in Mumbai were in dilemma last week. With the culture of celebrating Valentine Day taking roots in the community, the elders from the community are worried. 

Many of them want to protest but Shiv Sena and saffron brigade taking up the issue has made Muslims position quite awkward.If they protest they fear being bracketed with Sangh parivar and Shiv sena.If they keep quiet its gives wrong signal to the Muslim youth that Valentine day is accepted.

The Shiv Sena had announced that it was opposed to Valentine's Day celebrations since it would lead to the ``cultural corruption'' of the youth. Party spokesperson Subhash Desai said ``we are opposed to this Western concept and we feel that there should be no celebration on that day. Our country does not need foreign customs,'' he said, adding that India had a history of social reformers who had opposed practices which harmed society and claimed that the Sena was only continuing the tradition".

That these are essentially time-serving stunts becomes patently clear when the record of some of these votaries of 'cultural purity' is considered. The Shiv Sena, for instance, which religiously observes St Valentine's Day every year without fail by opposing it vociferously, has had no problems in airdropping Michael Jackson in Mumbai, so just what is it on about now?

Nevertheless Shiv Sena activists were in a jubilant mood as the Delhi High Court dismissed a petition by Archies Gallery stores, whose outlets were attacked last year. "Shiv Sena is a responsible political party and it is expected that in expressing and propagating their views they would abide by law and will not adopt illegal means," said Judge Sharda Aggarwal.

In its petition, the Archies Gallery stores had sought protection from police since they stood by last year as gangs attacked stores and drove customers out.Archies Gallery is an Indian chain and has been in business since 1979. Recently, three groups had issued press statements warning people against participating in Valentine's Day observances.

The very fact that St Valentine's Day has become one of national concern and national media wholeheartedly supporting the votaries of Valentine Day calls for the rational debate.

Noted sociologist Ashish Nandy observed recently, any culture that needs to be rescued from the ravages of Cupids, hearts, chocolates, and the like, is not worth rescuing. He argues that a country and society that has weathered the deprecations of time and influences as varied as India has, is certainly under no threat from the purveyors of such fantasies.

It's true that the challenge of modernity is learning to live with them without losing one's sense of identity but what is needed is really a sense of proportion and a rational way of viewing the phenomenon of celebrations like Valentine's Day. It is well-established that India inhabits several time zones simultaneously. What is assumed as perfectly normal on a Chennai campus may appear outrageous to a conservative family in Nagpur and perfectly hurt the religious sentiments of a ‘particular community.’ At the same time, there are those powerful engines of globalisation, like mass television, cinema and sport, at work. No nation on earth can shut its doors to these influences. 

But that does not mean one should blindly accept the alien culture in toto without even bothering to have a rational debate on the pros and cons as national media is propagating. Accepting the challenge of modernity is learning to live with them without losing one's sense of identity.

Thus Ashish Nandy may argue that Indian society is certainly under no threat from the purveyors of such fantasies as Valentine Day and media may go over board in promoting it for obvious reasons in the name of independence of expressions but in reality when two cultures of different velocity and wavelength interact it is obvious that one coming from developed society will dominate many a time and in the process completely destroy the moral and social fabric of the not so developed societies.

Thus here the issue is not of freedom of expressions as propagated by media but the question is more of morality, our ethos and value which we treasure since centuries.
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