The Indian government is urging people to hug cows on Valentine’s Day

NEW DELHI – India’s government-led animal welfare agency has appealed to citizens not to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year as a celebration of romance, but as “cow hug day” to better promote Hindu values.

The Animal Welfare Board of India said on Wednesday that “hugging cows will bring emotional wealth and increase individual and collective happiness”.

Devout Hindus, who worship cows as sacred, say the western holiday goes against traditional Indian values.

In recent years, hard-line Hindus have raided shops in Indian cities, burned cards and gifts, and chased couples holding hands from restaurants and parks for saying Valentine’s Day encourages promiscuity. Hard-line political groups like Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal say such actions pave the way to revitalizing Hindu identity.

Young educated Indians, regardless of their religion, usually spend the holidays crowding parks and restaurants, exchanging gifts and throwing parties to celebrate like any other Indian festival, especially since India started the process of economic liberalization in the early 1990s started.

The Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to advance a Hindu agendawho seek the supremacy of religion at the expense of a secular nation known for its diversity. Hindus make up almost 80% of the nearly 1.4 billion people. Muslims make up 14%, while Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains make up most of the remaining 6%.

The cow has long been embedded in the Hindu psyche and is deeply respected by many like one’s mother. Most states in India have banned the slaughter of cows. The Animal Welfare Committee’s call urges people to go out and physically hug cows on February 14.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political analyst, said the message was “absolutely insane. It defies all logic.”

“The unfortunate part is that this has now been officially approved,” he added. “This shows that another line between state and religion is being erased, which is very depressing. Now the state is doing what political and religious groups fought for.”

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. The Indian government is urging people to hug cows on Valentine’s Day

Sarah Y. Kim

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