Bajrang Dal activists burning effigy and protesting celebration of Valentines day in Hyderabad on Sunday. (Photo: PTI)
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Will Slap Couples If Required: Chennai Moral Police on V-Day

The beaches in Chennai provide a perfect escape for canoodling couples, who can often be found enjoying a romantic day out, even under the scorching sun. But the city is no stranger to the self-appointed moral police that particularly takes on the responsibility on Valentine’s Day, to shame public displays of affection and educate the youth on “the difference between love and lust”.

But this time, in the interest of seeing where they came from, I wanted to know. I really did. So I went to one of their protests.

Nirmala, a woman dressed in saffron and sporting a meek, unassuming smile approached me and offered a brief about the protests. She belongs to a group called the Hindu Makkal Katchi which has been quite exhaustive about its anti(s) – anti-pornography, anti-obscenity, anti-objectification, anti-PDA, “And anti-love,” she said.

We think love between people who aren’t married is responsible for sexual crimes. If there’s one piece of advice that youngsters often forget – it’s that love is between the parent and child, between a married couple. What’s everything else? Lust. So when these children are in parks, beaches, hugging and touching each other like that, are they going to get married? They have to get married.
Nirmala, Member Hindu Makkal Katchi

Much of Nirmala’s life, she says, involved working with orphaned children and rescuing destitutes, so in her accounts of how love between youngsters fails, stories of teenage pregnancies and sexual abuse intermittently appear.

“We all want security, don’t we?” she says. I try to entertain her reasoning, but the itch to interrupt it overtook me and I asked her if a marriage could be riddled with insecurities.

Yes, but it’s a license, a contract by God, what could go wrong?
Nirmala, Member Hindu Makkal Katchi

The Katchi is eager to hunt for couples who dare to display their affection in public.

If I find them, I tell them that love will only ruin you, and if they don’t heed my words, I slap them.
Nirmala, Member Hindu Makkal Katchi

Nirmala is quite convinced about moral policing and she especially dislikes inter-caste and inter-religious relationships, considering them as being disrespectful to one’s past and believing that castes and religions exist for a reason.

I once slapped a boy and found out he was Muslim while the girl was Hindu!
Nirmala, Member Hindu Makkal Katchi

Just around the corner, a few men were waiting for the anti-Valentine’s day protests to gain traction in order to fight with the Katchi members trickling in and to wave their pro-love slogans and protect couples on the beach from harassment. But it turned out to be a damp squib, as the Katchi supporters did not come in large numbers as expected.

A supporter was relieved, but visibly dull.

It’s a good thing they aren’t very popular this time, but we also came all the way to show how pro-love we are. So, now we’ll just cut the cake and leave.
Nirmala, Member Hindu Makkal Katchi

Meanwhile, Nirmala trots off to another protest to spread her message. Flashing a smile, she steps into a bright red car, leaving me with a little piece of advice—“Love, but don’t love like that.”

(The writer Divya Karthikeyan works with The News Minute.)