Vice Squad
Monday, February 02, 2004
Social Persuasion versus Social Coercion: Valentine's Day Protests

Vice Squad hero John Stuart Mill writes in On Liberty: "... the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise."

Valentine's Day is around the corner, and we know what that means: some places around the world are going to see anti-Valentine's Day protests. One such place, according to this article (registration required) in the Times of India, is Pune, India. "Heads of prominent educational institutions in Pune — including Symbiosis, Maharashtra institute of technology (MIT), Bharti Vidyapeeth, Indira institute and Cummins foundation — have joined hands with other city groups to oppose the Westernised celebration of Valentine’s Day in Pune."

But will these protests be of the persuasion variety or the compulsion variety? Looks like the latter to me...:

"At a press conference on Monday, the Pune cards and gifts association announced that this year, too, they would not stock any Valentine’s Day items for sale. In 1998, some card shops and florists had been attacked by right-wing organisations opposed to Valentine’s Day celebrations.

Since then, Pune shopkeepers have refrained from selling any V Day item out of fear of a similar backlash. 'We have stopped selling these items for the past three years as we feel that unpleasant incidents like forcing girls to accept Valentine’s Day cards or roses were happening,' Nitin Naik, vice-president of the association said." (How good of the association to worry about unpleasant incidents that happen to others. Surely this stance is unrelated to previous attacks on card shops?)

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