The Hari Putar Dialogues - 44
(BBC News; London ; 10 February 2009 : Indians outraged at an attack on women for drinking in a bar have gathered together to send a provocative gift of underwear to right-wing activists. The group says it will give the pink underwear to Sri Ram Sena (Army of Lord Ram) on Valentine's Day on Saturday. It was blamed for the bar attack in the southern city of Mangalore last month. The Ram Sena has not yet commented on the group's moves. Last month's attack in Mangalore, which was filmed and then broadcast on national television, shocked many Indians. Television pictures showed men chasing and beating up the panicking women. Some of the women, who tripped and fell, were kicked by the men.)
Putar: The very same group, Papaji. Television pictures showed men chasing and beating the women. Women who tripped and fell, were even kicked.
Hari: It's a disgrace that such a group is allowed to use the name of Ram. Weren't there some arrests made?
Putar: Yes, around 30 people including the leader of the so-called Ram Sena, Mr Pramod Mutalik was arrested.
Hari: So what is the special present that is being given to the Ram Sena?
Putar: Some pink underwear.
Hari: That's shocking.
Putar: Yes, I think it's shocking pink.
Hari: No, that's not what I meant. Anyhow what is this group's name?
Putar: It calls itself the Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women. It was formed on Facebook only last Thursday. They have also exhorted women to "walk to the nearest pub and buy a drink" on Valentine's Day.
Hari: But what is the significance of giving pink underwear to the Ram Sena on Valentine's Day?
Putar: A spokeswoman for the group, Nisha Susan, told the BBC it was giving chaddis (Hindi colloquial for underwear) as they alluded to a prominent Hindu right-wing group whose khaki-shorts-wearing cadres were often derisively called "chaddi wallahs" (chaddi wearers).
Hari: I think that's unnecessary. All BJP members do not have such views. In fact if I remember correctly the Karnataka State BJP distanced itself from the attack and said that it had nothing to do with the Ram Sena.
Putar: That's true. However the same report quotes a BBC correspondent as saying that right-wing Hindu vigilante groups loosely linked to the BJP are active in many parts of India and have in the past targeted Muslim and Christian minorities as well as events such as Valentine's Day.
Hari: There may be some people who hold such views within the BJP but it's not fair to tar everyone with the same brush. But leaving that aside, why has these women chosen to give 'pink' underwear, rather than underwear of some other color.
Putar: The group's spokesperson says that this is because pink is a frivolous color.
Hari: That makes sense. The best strategy against such groups is to poke fun at them. To ridicule them, and gifting them pink underwear is a way of just doing that.
Putar: There is an irony to this gift though.
Hari: How do you mean?
Putar: In different parts of the world, although perhaps more specially in the Western world there will be men who will buy lingerie for their wives or girlfriends as Valentine's Day gifts. And this lingerie may include in some instances pink underwear. So there is an irony that these women are giving pink underwear to this organization.
Hari: That's true.
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: It's an appropriate Valentine's Day gift for the Ram Sena goons, but perhaps this women's group has not fully explained the reasons for their choice of a gift of pink underwear to the Ram Sena.
Hari: Surely the women understand their own reasons.
Putar: There may not be a single reason, you see.
Hari: What other reason could there be?
Putar: The spokesperson for the group said that they chose pink because it was a frivolous color. But the pink color is also (and more commonly) understood to be a feminine color, is it not?
Hari: That's true.
Putar: When men act without courage or manliness, what do women in India say?
Hari: The common phrase is: 'You should be wearing bangles'.
Putar: And what does the un-chivalrous and obscene act of beating up women and even kicking women who have fallen to the ground signify or represent?
Hari: I don't know.
Putar: A fall from grace and manliness. Rather than protect women, which should be the avowed aim of a group that calls itself the Ram Sena, the group's members have been attacking women who are physically weaker. Even women who have fallen to the ground have been kicked. This shows cowardice and a lack of manliness.
Hari: And so?
Putar: And so the hidden subtext behind the gift of this feminine garment is that: 'Even bangles are not good enough for the likes of you. You should be wearing pink underwear.' Don't you think so?
Hari: I don't know, Putar.