Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Civil Unrest (i.e., Valentine's) Day!

As hard is it might be to believe, what follows is an actual security alert email I received and not something copied from The Onion. I just wish they would have been more specific with which "multinational fast-food outlets" were more prone to protest; that is, is McDonald's considered a symbol of gross Western commercialism while KFC is just considered a symbol of simple Western commercialism? Regardless, it helps justify my refusal to celebrate Valentine's Day...

Worldcue® Alert
Severity: Warning Alert

Security: Valentine's Day unrest possible in India through Feb. 14. Avoid protests; use caution at restaurants, gift shops and other commercial areas.
This alert affects India.
This alert began 10 Feb 2010 09:30 GMT and is scheduled to expire 14 Feb 2010 23:59 GMT.
Protests, vandalism, and other forms of unrest are possible across India through the Valentine's Day holiday Feb. 14. Right-wing Hindu groups strongly object to the observance of the unofficial holiday. Unrest is particularly likely in Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi and major cities in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karanataka and Uttar Pradesh states.

Background & Analysis

Valentine's Day is very popular among many young Indians, but pro-Hindu groups such as the Sri Ram Sene (Lord Ram's Army), Shiv Sena, Hindu Jagran Manch, Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council - VHP) consider the holiday an affront to Indian culture and an example of gross Western commercialism. These groups regularly threaten to disrupt holiday events. The Sri Ram Sene has banned Valentine's Day celebrations in Karnataka, and its activists could prompt unrest in Bangalore, Mangalore and Mysore. Mumbai is a Shiv Sena stronghold where Valentine's Day unrest is an annual concern. Localized unrest is also typical in Delhi, where mobs have harassed Westerners at Connaught Place.

Protests are common, especially outside major government buildings, hotels, eateries (including multinational fast-food outlets) and shops selling Valentine's Day sundries. Demonstrations can turn violent - protesters have ransacked shops, burned greeting cards and posters and harassed and assaulted people celebrating the unofficial holiday. Confrontations with police could occur.


Despite increased police surveillance, security disturbances could occur at public parks, university campuses, movie theaters and commercial areas in major cities through Feb. 14. Avoid protests and limit exposure to gift shops whose proprietors typically ignore warnings to shut down. Right-wing Hindu organizations might also threaten to disrupt Valentine's Day celebrations at other venues, such as hotels and restaurants. Use caution in crowded commercial areas and avoid public displays of affection. Potential troublemakers are often easily identifiable; right-wing Hindu activists regularly wear saffron-colored clothing or carry orange flags.


  1. Wow, interesting! Are you planning for a night in then?

    Since you mentioned fast-food, what is the local flair at the Indian McDonalds or other food chains? I always love learning about the cultural differences in well known food chains. For example, in France they serve wine at McDonalds, in the Dominican Republic- you get Fries with your tacos at Tacobell.

  2. John - Thanks for the update. You write so very well that it sounds just like you are talking. The details make it real! Miss you guys a ton!

  3. Leah, (obviously) there's no beef...there's no beef to the extent that they have a sign that says "Beef and beef products not sold here" (which I assume is from a lawsuit when they first expanded into India and the fries were fried some oil that had beefstock of some sort). That being said, the Big Mac is substituted for a tasty little delight called the Maharaja Mac, which is basically a spicy Big Mac with chicken patties. The McChicken is the exact same, though Lindsay smartened up the last time around and always ordered it without mayo for two reasons; (1) they cake the mayo on a little thick and (2) more importantly, they then make it fresh. The fries taste the exact same.

    In all honestly, we haven't been in a McDonald's this trip yet, but when we do, I'll take and post pictures.

    I had Subway the other day and got a tuna sub; outside the jalapeno peppers, it was basically the same (though I had heard horror stories of people getting sick). In addition, they have pizza chains (Pizza Hut, Papa John's, and Domino's), KFC, TGI Friday's, and Ruby Tuesday's. In general, the menus are fairly similar, but they tend to substitute lamb for beef (for red meat) and spice things up to some extent.

    I'll keep an eye out and let you know what else we find....

  4. I am betting you will be a vegetarian by Easter...stay safe! TBoz