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Saturday, February 14, 2009

INDIA/PAKISTAN: Peaceful Pink Panties to Tame Right-Wing Goons By Beena Sarwar

Outraged by an attack by right-wing Hindu militants on women emerging from a pub in Mangalore, Karnataka state, activists in India have initiated a ‘Pink Chaddi’ (underwear) campaign in which they are sending pink panties to members of the Sri Ram Sena (Army of Lord Ram) on Valentines’ Day.

Television cameras caught the attack, on Jan 24, in which a group of men chased and beat up women as they came out of a pub, kicking some of the women who tripped and fell. Some 30 men, including the SRS chief Pramod Muthalik were later arrested.

The Pink Chaddi campaign has defiantly called for a Pub Bharo (fill-the-pubs) action on Valentines Day.

"Go to a pub wherever you are. From Kabul to Chennai to Guwahati to Singapore to LA women have signed up. It does not matter if you are actually not a pub-goer or not even much of a drinker. Let us raise a toast (it can be juice) to Indian women," Delhi-based journalist Nisha Susan, who started the campaign on Feb 5, wrote in the blog

The move has resonated in pub-less Pakistan, where women are equally threatened by right-wing militants who claim to have Islamic sanction for curbing women’s visibility and movements in the public sphere.

Muslim extremists in Pakistan oppose the celebration of New Year and Valentine’s Day with as much fervor as their Hindu counterparts in India.

However, shops in all major Pakistani cities were reported stocking Valentine Day cards and other red and pink paraphernalia while street vendors were doing brisk business selling red roses and heart-shaped balloons.

This is far removed from Saudi Arabia’s Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice which, last year, banned the sale of Valentine’s Day material with officials from the ministry seen scouring shops in Riyadh and ordering removal from shelves of anything in pink or red, including roses.

Commenting on the Pink Chaddi campaign, Pakistani filmmaker Aisha Gazdar who recently joined the Pakistani Facebook group ‘Fashionistas Against Talibanisation’ told IPS it was a great idea. "But since we don’t have pubs in Pakistan, we need to find some other way to respond."

Several people from Pakistan have contacted Susan, says Aniruddha Shankar, also a journalist in Delhi. He told IPS via the internet that Pakistanis have been calling Susan and saying, "Why don’t you send pink underwear to our mullahs (Muslim priests) also?"


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