The radical Hindu group “Sri Ram Sena” or "Lord Ram's Army" attacked women in a pub in the southern Indian city of Mangalore in January and they are now threatening to repeat their action on Valentine’s Day. The activists oppose the modern, emancipated lifestyle of women and have said they would attack couples who publicly celebrate their love on Saturday.
Say it with flowers: Valentine's Day in India
As a protest against the conservative group a young lawyer started a campaign for women’s rights: the Pink Chaddi Campaign.
Around 1800 packages containing pink panties have been sent to the radical Hindu group “Sri Ram Sena”. The packages come from members of the Pink Chaddi campaign - the Pink Panty Campaign - as a sign of protest. More than 33.000 people have joined the campaign. Benson Issac is one of them:
“As an Indian I think that I’ve had a lot of freedom - that I grew up in a plural society. I find that the space is narrowing and there are all forms of fundamentalism whether it is Hindu or Muslim or Christian or whatever form of fundamentalism and I think that as an Indian, as a person I need to protest against what is going on.”
India’s Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury compared the “Sri Ram Sena” activists to the Taliban in Afghanistan and called the attack on women a dangerous trend. Although many women have not experienced violence against themselves they want to speak out against conservatives who act as a self-declared moral police.
“When I go out to a pub today I think twice. What if someone enters – these thoughts came to my head. This is not something that I want to happen to me,” says Areeba, a campaigner, who does not want to reveal her last name.
A provocative action
A number of women have left the campaign because they received hate calls. According to feminist Urvashi Butalia, the number of incidents of violence against women is rising, but on the other hand protests for women’s rights are taking place as well.
The Pink Chaddi campaign is creative, says Ranjana Kumari from the Centre for Social Research, but sending pink underwear is not the most efficient form of protest for such a serious issue.
“I would think that the protest is very obnoxious. This whole pink chaddi is a kind of sexual symbolism that they are trying to use which will not go down well in the minds of the middle class.”
Valentine’s Day threats
Despite of the recent attacks women will continue to go out and Kumari states that the majority of India’s society does not support the activist’s radical views.
“This is just a handful of Gundas, they are just people who are creating the kind of chaos in society- by creating chaos they make a space for themselves. But I don’t think any sensible Indian is in any way convinced of what they did and how they are trying to protect the Indian culture. Nobody wants them to be around. I mean we are all there, we are all protesting, and tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I’m sure youngsters will not be scared of anybody expressing their love.”
Nonetheless, the police take the threats uttered by “Sri Ram Sena” seriously and they are prepared for possible attacks on women, couples or shop owners who are selling Valentine’s Day cards.