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A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on February 15, 2009 4 Comments

Bitter culture wars played out over Valentine’s Day in India, as the New York Times reported.

Sri Ram Sena, the über-religious right-wing Indian political outfit, had announced their intentions to “disrupt Valentine’s Day celebration as it is against Indian culture.” The disruption, they said, would be targeted against schools and colleges, restaurants and gift/card shops where people were found to be celebrating the event. The chief of the Sena, Pramod Muthalik, only recently made bail after being jailed for having spearheaded an attack on some women visiting a pub in Mangalore, Karnataka, a southern state. See video of the attack here:

News media reported him saying: “Valentine’s day, Friendship Day… all these are international conspiracies against our culture. They are exploiting the girls by calling it as lover’s day. Love cannot be for a single day. This is a conspiracy by the Christians.”

There were many in India who were not going to take this lying down. A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women, a Facebook group, was established on February 5 of this year to protest the “moral policing,” and as of today boasts 44,252 members. The group members exhorted members and young women to send pink chaddhis (underwear)-as a symbolic gesture-to Muthalik (the Sena office has been flooded with parcels containing them). It’s too early to call anything a victory, but the show of solidarity for women and the right to celebrate Valentine’s Day certainly sent a loud and clear signal that progressive women and lovers are not going to be easily oppressed.

It angers me that these people are called Hindu fundamentalists: there is nothing essentially “Hindu” about this kind of persecution. It’s evil, narrow-minded, sexist and insular mentality which should not have any role in the secular politics and culture that should define our nation. Secular not in the sense of drowning out plural voices, but secular in the sense of embracing of of religious plurality. [The question of how “Christian” an event Valentine’s Day really is, is another blog post.] It angers me that women in particular are singled out for retribution: why? Simply because they are viewed as “soft targets”? And these people-who viciously beat up women for “daring” to enter a pub-are crying out against women’s exploitation? And why, when Eid (a Muslim holiday), Christmas (a Christian holiday), Mahavir Jayanti (a Jain holiday) are celebrated as national holidays, in the spirit of diversity, can Valentine’s Day not be celebrated? It’s not like Hindu festivals are not observed: they are marked with tremendous feasts and celebrations nationwide.

I’d like to say I am shocked by these events. I am not. What I am really surprised about is that the counter-movement took off from Facebook. I always thought Indians were bigger Orkut users.

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4 Responses to “A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women”

  1. Youki on: 16 February 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I grew up with Valentine’s day being a natural part of life, but I can imagine a resistance towards it from other cultures. However, the violence really only leads me to believe that anti-Valentine’s day sentiment is just an outlet for hate and ignorance.

  2. Usree Bhattacharya on: 16 February 2009 at 11:06 pm

    I agree. I can understand the resistance too, but not resistance that manifests itself so violently specifically against women in the name of protecting women. “Hate and ignorance” is right. Many people say this is the “Talibanization” of certain Indian political groups, and I agree.

  3. daveski on: 20 February 2009 at 3:29 pm

    This seems like a mythification of the already mythical Valentine’s Day. Makes a good news story…I bet the real story goes a lot deeper.

    I have to say, though, for rather different reasons than Sri Ram Sena, I’m not a fan of VD.

  4. Usree Bhattacharya on: 20 February 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Sheesh, David!

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