Indian women take on cultural vigilantes with underwear campaign (Roundup)

February 10th, 2009 - 8:26 pm ICT by IANS  

FacebookNew Delhi, Feb 10 (IANS)Outraged Indian women say they will collect hundreds of underwear to send to a man whose supporters say women should not visit pubs nor celebrate Valentine’s Day as it is against Indian culture.

Pink underwears are being collected in right earnest, and the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaigners say they are hopeful of collecting 3,000 underwears to present the cheeky gift to Sri Rama Sene chief Pramod Muthalik to counter his moral policing. The Sri Rama Sene has questioned the “family background” of the campaigners who are targeting him.

The campaign launched on social networking site Facebook has generated immense interest, and support, especially after the media highlighted it Tuesday.

The ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign has been initiated by a group of women who call themselves the Consortium of Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women. Men can also send in underwears, and if they don’t have pink ones, any other colour will do, says a group member.

Besides the Pink Chaddi campaign, another one on Facebook is attracting a lot of interest and support - ‘Pub Bharo’. This campaign is asking youth across the country, especially women, to fill up pubs on Feb 14, Valentine’s Day, to counter the Sene’s moral policing.

Activists of the right-wing Sene had attacked and beaten up women at a pub in Mangalore Jan 24, claiming pub-going was against Indian traditions.

While members of both campaigns are determined to counter the Sri Rama Sene, activists of the fringe Hindu nationalist group are raising questions about the “family background” of the campaigners.

“We were raised by our mother in such a manner that we are working against pub culture and vulgarity. What about the family background of those working for the ‘pub bharo’ (fill pubs) and other campaign,” Binay Kumar Singh, general secretary the Sri Rama Sene, said to IANS.

“The campaigns show the limit of their activism and bankruptcy of their ideology,” he said.

The ‘Pub Bharo’ campaign is being endorsed by Tejaswini Chowdhury, and her mother union Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury.

Politicising the issue, Singh added: “The Congress party was the one that was based on Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy - from Swades (self-reliance) to Jail Bharo (fill prisons), this party has now come to Pub bharo (fill pubs).

“The women and child development minister is such a senior person, what kind of woman and child welfare does she want to do by endorsing pub bharo?” Singh asked.

Nisha Susan, convenor of the Pink Chaddi campaign, writes on the group’s blog:

“The campaign was kicked off on Feb 5, 2009, to oppose the Sri Rama Sene. The campaign is growing exponentially - there are 4,500 people at this point in the life of our consortium and that is not surprising. Most women in this country have enough curbs on their lives without a whole new franchise cashing in with their bully-boy tactics.”

Susan, originally from Bangalore, works with a Delhi-based media house.

She got together with friends at Bangalore and started the initiative which has spread like wild fire. Their mission is to collect 3,000 underwears from across the country and send these to Muthalik and his aides as a form of protest by Feb 14.

Susan and her friends feel gifting pink underwear is a creative way to express protest.

“Pink is a colour of love and is a frivolous colour. We wanted to disgust them too - so the underwear. I come from a fairly respectable family. Unlike their (Sri Rama Sene workers) ways, ours is a peaceful way of telling them that we are on an offensive,” Ashwini Shetty, the campaign’s coordinator in Mumbai, told IANS on phone.

Shetty, who has just begun collecting underwears since Tuesday morning, has so far collected some 40 pairs and hopes to collect over a hundred before the deadline Wednesday evening.

“When I joined the group, I recalled the incident at Mangalore - which was truly deplorable. I am a tee-totaller but used to visit the pub with my husband and hang out. The fact that I could be a victim of these moral policing antics motivated me to join the campaign and offer to collect underwear,” Shetty, a marketing executive, added.

In Delhi, the deadline is Wednesday evening, while in Bangalore people can send their ‘protest tokens’ by Thursday.

“The campaign is open to men as well - but here I have received only female underwear,” Shetty says with a laugh.

Those interested can log on to the blog - - and send by courier the underwear to any of the collection centers in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.

“Those who can’t send underwear can send pictures, after all it is a symbolic protest,” added Shetty.

On Thursday, the members - who range from housewives to media persons and corporate executives - plan to hold a press conference before they send the underwears to Muthalik.

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