NEW DELHI – India's Hindu hard-liners are showing no love for Valentine's Day.
A few dozen protesters briefly blocked a road in downtown New Delhi on Wednesday, burning Valentine's Day cards and chanting "Down with Valentine." In the nearby city of Lucknow, extremists threatened to beat up couples found celebrating their love.
"We are deadly against Valentine's Day," said Sapan Dutta, a regional leader of the hard-line Shiv Sena group. "We are for civilized love and affection."
The protests by groups like Shiv Sena, who say they are defending traditional Indian values from Western-style promiscuity, have become an annual media event.
But they appear to be fighting a losing battle, particularly in India's cities, where a booming economy has brought with it all the trappings of Western culture, including McDonald's, MTV and of course, Valentine's Day.
Shops stock Valentine's cards and chocolates, vendors boost prices of red roses, and restaurants offer romantic specials.
Many of India's English-language newspapers had front-page Valentine's Day stories ahead of the holiday Thursday.
The Times of India said security would be stepped up around New Delhi University's rose gardens to prevent young Romeos from plucking flowers, and the Hindustan Times cited doctors advising people not to abuse aphrodisiacs or drugs like Viagra.
Still, a handful of hard-liners threatened to disrupt celebrations.
"Our volunteers will check parks, hotels and restaurants and swoop upon young lovers found walking hand-in-hand," said Vijay Tiwari, a Shiv Sena activist in Lucknow.
In recent years, there have been several cases of couples being attacked while seeking privacy in local parks.
Police in Lucknow said they would stop any intimidation.
"We will not allow anyone to take the law into his own hands in the name of cultural policing," said Brij Lal, a senior police officer.
Those planning celebrations said they would not be put off.
"What right do these people have to set the do's and don'ts for young lovers on Valentine's Day? We have planned a massive party and will go ahead with it," said Abhinav Sharma, a college student.