11 February 2009
Indian women say knickers to nationalists
Today’s Times carries a report on protest by young Indian women against a radical Hindu organisation that attacked female students in a pub last month and is also threatening to target unmarried couples celebrating Valentine’s Day.
A Facebook group called A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women – Now over 23,000 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 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. 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 pink chaddi. 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. “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.
Renuka Chowdhury, the Minister for Women, denounced the attack in Mangalore as a symptom of the “Tale-banisation” of India. 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.”