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6 held over Valentine's attacks near Taj Mahal

Police arrested six members of a hard-line Hindu group on Saturday for attacking and cutting the hair of three couples on Valentine's Day near the Taj Mahal.
India Valentine's Day Protest
Supporters of the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena party burn Valentine's Day cards in New Delhi, India, on Friday.Saurabh Das / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Police arrested six members of a hard-line Hindu group on Saturday for attacking and cutting the hair of three couples on Valentine's Day near the Taj Mahal — India's white-marble monument to love.

Meanwhile, members of another group vandalized a shop selling Valentine's cards and raided a restaurant looking for romantic couples in the Indian portion of Kashmir.

Public displays of love are frowned upon by the older generation in India. Kissing, holding hands and cuddling are all social taboos, though the influx of Western culture has made it a more common practice among younger couples.

The protesters used scissors to cut the hair of overtly romantic young couples in a park in the northern Indian city of Agra, said superintendent of police V.P. Ashok.

"The six belonging to Shiv Sena group were arrested for causing a breach of the peace," he told The Associated Press.

Agra is the site of the Taj Mahal, a monument built by the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan between 1632 and 1654 in memory of his favorite wife.

The protests by groups like Shiv Sena — which says it is defending traditional Indian values from Western promiscuity — have become an annual event on Valentine's Day.

Authorities tightened security this year in major Indian cities in an attempt to prevent attacks.

Trappings of Western culture
India's economic surge in recent years has brought with it the trappings of Western culture, including McDonald's, MTV and Valentine's Day. Shops stock cards and chocolates, vendors sell red roses and restaurants offer romantic specials.

In Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir, a half dozen burqa-clad members of the radical Islamic women's group Dukhtaran-e-Millat tore up Valentine's Day cards in a gift shop, shop owner Shaukat Ahmed said.

The protesters also entered a restaurant looking for couples celebrating their love but didn't find any.

The organization has tried to enforce a strict Islamic dress code in the Himalayan region.

Ahmed said the protesters described the cards as "un-Islamic."

"They left after I told them that I won't sell these cards in the future," he told AP.

In the southern state of Karnataka, police preventatively detained 140 members of the right-wing Hindu group Sri Ram Sene on Friday, The Indian Express newspaper reported.

The detentions came weeks after some group members attacked young couples in a pub in the city of Mangalore in the state.

University cancels classes
Authorities also canceled classes at Lucknow University on Saturday to prevent attacks. Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.

Madhu Chandra, a well-known New Delhi-based human rights activist, strongly defended the civil liberties of couples.

"It's the right of every Indian citizen to express our love in the manner acceptable, or in the Indian way, or in the English way, or in the Islamic way," he said.

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