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    Sri Ram Sene

October 30, 2011

Pink Chaddis – Mightier Than the Sword

The greater transparency afforded by the Internet and social media, when it comes to political and social affairs, can be an effective counter to bullying by groups who would impose their own moral agenda on others.  A striking case in point is the Pink Chaddis campaign.

Pramod Muthalik

Pramod Muthalik

One evening in January 2009, in the city of Mangalore in southwestern India, a group of  religious fundamentalists named Sri Ram Sena (SRS) attacked a group of women at a local bar called Ambient.  The women were assaulted and driven out into the street.  The Sri Ram Sena (which means “Lord Ram’s Army” in Hindu) is known for its use of violent moral policing tactics similar to those of the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Other people at the pub captured the events on their video-enabled cell phones.  These were uploaded to YouTube and widely viewed.  Pramod Muthali, leader of the Sri Ram Sene, vowed that his organization would attack anyone who chose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which it viewed as an inappropriate Western celebration too focused on romantic love.

Nisha Susan

Nisha Susan

Nisha Susan, a resident of Mangalore, decided to make a public response and rally women to her cause.  She  organized a campaign to combat the threats from the SRS.  She set up a Facebook group called “The Association of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women.”  She asked the members to mail pink chaddis (Hindu slang for “underwear”) to Muthalik’s office address which she published.  The campaign was an instant success.

In an article she later wrote for the Guardian, Nisha noted “One day, the campaign had 500 members; a week later, it had 30,000. A 75-year-old woman from Delhi sent us panties. A Bollywood lyricist wrote a poem in honour of the rose-coloured chaddi. Amul, India’s best-known brand of butter, put up a billboard featuring a pink chaddi. More than 2,000 chaddis arrived at the SRS office.”

pink-chaddisThe police and politicians of the city, sensitive to the large public response, took heed and brought Muthalik and some of his followers into custody for several days around  Valentine’s Day.

Online tools make it easier to coordinate non-violent protests against groups who promote their ideologies through intimidation and bullying.  But it still takes the courage and creative spark of one or more determined individuals to make it successful.