As thousands began Valentine’s Day by running for world peace early Monday in the Taj city, housing the monument to love, Shiv Sena activists said they would post “love guards” to check any “obscene demonstration” of romance while Youth Congress members vowed to provide safety to couples.

Around 20,000 people took part in the Agra Half Marathon, which began at 7 a.m. Flagged off by former Miss World Diana Hayden at the Eklavya Stadium, it saw people of all age groups – children and the elderly – taking part.

“There were more than 20,000 runners. Amazing response…unprecedented,” said Harvijay Bahia, one of the organisers and formula car racers.

The event is being seen as a curtainraiser for the Taj Mahotsav starting Feb 18.

While running for world peace was an innovative way to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Agra, the city which boasts of the 17th century Taj Mahal, rightwing group Shiv Sena had their strategy planned out against lovebirds.

Sena activists conducted a ‘lathi puja’ Sunday night and said the ‘lathis’ (batons) are “not for show but for use against those who celebrate the Western cultural imposition” of Valentine’s Day.

Addressing the media, the group said it would post their “love guards” at restaurants and other places likely to be frequented by couples and they would attack those who violated the social moral codes.

Veenu Lavania, Shiv Sena chief of Agra, said they had divided the city into 16 zones and the zonal in-charges would keep an eye on all restaurants, malls and parks. Lavania also appealed to parents not to send their children to school and keep them under surveillance at home.

The Youth Congress, on the other hand, voiced their support for Valentine’s Day celebrations. Mayank Dube, Youth Congress secretary here, said volunteers would be posted at various locations to provide safety to lovers.

Superintendent of Police (City) said police teams would remain vigilant at malls and parks to ensure peace and defuse tension in case there was trouble from any quarters. Deputy Inspector General of police Aseem Arun told mediapersons that celebrating Valentine’s Day was a personal choice and no one would be allowed to create trouble.

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