Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Delhi women launch Facebook campaign titled "The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women"

The Times (UK)
February 11, 2009

Indian women have launched a Facebook campaign titled "The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women" in response to the recent attack on "un-Indian" women who were out drinking in a bar

A group of young Indian women plan to send pink knickers to a Hindu radical organisation that attacked female students in a pub last month and is also threatening to target unmarried couples celebrating Valentine’s Day.

The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women – which had more than 10,000 members by last night – is urging Indian women to defy the radicals by enjoying a drink at their nearest pub on Saturday.

The group was founded on Face-book last week in protest at the Sri Ram Sena (Lord Ram’s Army), which assaulted several young women last month in a pub in Mangalore, a college town in the southern state of Karnataka.

Pramod Mutalik, the SRS leader, said at the time that his followers were “custodians of Indian culture” who had prevented the women at the pub from going astray.

That prompted outrage from women’s rights activists and stirred a national debate about culturally acceptable behaviour for women in a society that is changing but still deeply conservative. Mr Mutalik was arrested but has been bailed. He has vowed to force unmarried couples found together on Valentine’s Day to either get married or to tie rakhis – string bracelets – on their wrists signifying that they are brother and sister.

The consortium responded by asking supporters to send in pinkchaddi– Hindi slang for underwear – which it will post to the SRS on Friday.

Nisha Susan, 29, a journalist from Karnataka, told The Times that she started the group after reading about the attack in Mangalore and the subsequent threats by the SRS. “It wasn’t a serious thing at first, but now it’s becoming something bigger,” she said.

Ms Susan said she had been overwhelmed by responses from men and women who wanted to protect their constitutional rights: “Most of us are just regular people. We decided to give the Sri Ram Sena attention, but not the kind they want.”

The chaddi gesture is an allusion to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the biggest and oldest group in the Hindu nationalist movement, which includes the SRS and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. RSS members are often called chaddi wallahs because their uniform includes baggy khaki shorts. “These people are not loonies – they’re guys looking for political capital,” Ms Susan said. “The worrying thing is that we’ve seen before in this region how there can be a period of freedom and then it’s taken away. Look at Afghanistan.”

Renuka Chowdhury, the Minister for Women, denounced the attack in Mangalore as a symptom of the “Tale-banisation” of India, where Hindu radicals have also protested against kissing in Bollywood films and cheerleaders at cricket matches.

Other officials have voiced support for the idea that is “unIndian” for women to visit pubs – or even to hold hands with men in public. “We definitely condemn the incident where women were attacked but the pub culture must stop,” Anbumani Ramadoss, the Health Minister, said last month.

There was no comment from Mr Mutalik, but he has made it clear that he will continue his campaign against “Western deviations” from Indian culture. “Valentine’s Day is definitely not Indian culture,” he was quoted as saying last week. “We will not allow celebration of that day in any form.”

Brief protests

- 1,500 protesters in underwear demonstrated against bull runs in Pamplona, Spain, in 2006

- Women in Burma sent underwear to Burmese foreign missions in 2007 in protest at military rule

- Women in Moscow wore only knickers and bunny ears as part of an antifur demonstration in November

- Residents of Agrate Conturbia in Italy voted in their underwear in 2000 in a protest at increased air traffic

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