Raise Your Glass in Solidarity with the Women of Mangalore

Jeff Alworth

Well, here's a campaign the good people of Beervana can get behind.  Tomorrow, women of the South Indian city of Mangalore are imploring women to exercise their rights and visit a pub in solidarity.  How does visiting a pub become an act of defiance?  When pinch-faced fundamentalist Hindus threaten to assualt you there.

This is the backstory:

[29-year-old journalist Nisha Susan]  launched her campaign after a posse of hard-line Hindu activists barged into a pub in the south Indian city of Mangalore last month and roughed up young women clients who were enjoying a quiet drink.

This assault — by members of a little-known organization called the Sri Ram Sena, or Lord Ram's Army — caused outrage among many Indians. It also triggered a national debate about the rights of women in a fast-changing society where traditions still run deep.

The hard-liners justified their pub attack — which they deliberately publicized — as an effort to stop "un-Indian" and "loose" behavior and to prevent India from falling prey to "Western deviations" such as allowing women into watering holes clearly meant for men.

This is not a new phenomenon. Fundamentalist Hindus have been employing violence against women and Muslims for decades. Far from fringey, these groups started seizing power in the 1990s and ruled and ruled with an overtly religious agenda from 1998-2004. (In a moment of poetic justice, Indians in 2004 threw them out of office and a minority Sikh and an economist became their PM.) Indian society, as it grows ever more multicultural, urban, and educated, becomes more liberal in social outlook--fueling the rage of the Hindu fundamentalists.

But in a sign that the times they are a changin', Indian women are now standing up against the medievalists.

With several associates, [29-year-old journalist Nisha Susan] launched a group on the social networking Web site, Facebook. They called it the "Consortium of Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women." And they unveiled a plan to dispatch piles of pink knickers to the leader of Sri Ram Sena in a nonviolent gesture of defiance.

The women chose Valentine's Day. This day particularly rankles right-wing Hindu extremists, who consider it an immoral commercialized Western import.

Susan's plan has produced a huge response. Within a week, the Consortium of Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women accumulated 25,000 members. It has set up collection centers in several Indian cities to handle the bundles of pink bloomers — or "chaddis," as they're widely known in India — that have poured in. (The choice of "chaddis" is a poke at the radical Hindu paramilitary group, the RSS, whose members stride about in baggy khaki shorts. In some areas,"Chaddi-walla" means right-winger.)

It's too late to send chaddis to India, but you can support the women in a very Oregonian way:

The consortium coupled the "chaddi" campaign with a separate appeal to its members to walk to the nearest pub, buy a drink and raise a toast on Valentine's Day — a battle cry that, according to its Web site, has won support from Toronto to Bangkok.

So spend some time in a pub tomorrow with your favorite malty elixir and raise that toast.  (Pink underwear optional.)  Prost!

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    "Far from fringey, these groups started seizing power in the 1990s"

    1990s? Hindu nationalists were lobbing bombs in London and assassinating politicians in the 1920s!

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    Well, we don't want to get deeply into Indian history, but as a political bloc the modern incarnation followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in '92. It was only thereafter that the BJP and Shiv Sena became politically powerful.

  • nigel (unverified)

    The feminists should take a trip to India in support of their sisters. Jeff, you do your little cross-dressing number and go with them to India. Once there, you could educate the Hindu's on the politics of the transgendered. Where a Sam Adams t-shirt, and tight skirt; take plenty of pictures for BO.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    I sit here all day looking at news feeds from the sub-continent, talking with cricketers, reading their papers, and I totally missed this one, which would have been a tragedy! Many, many, many thanks for posting this. Shukriya bahut dhanyavaad, Jeff!

    IPA, chana masala and feminism for the ol' boys' cricket club Friday nighter!

    Once there, you could educate the Hindu's on the politics of the transgendered.

    Typical American thinking there's anything that southern India hasn't experimented with umpteen times. You realize there are religions there that predate human speech? If you're so conservative, you'd go ape shit with some of their non-regulation. Feminism is a vital key to India's future. Today, you can take a ripe melon, dip it in 100% diazinon, shake it off and slap it in a market stall. You can spray fungicides from the air, and don't even have to stop when you pass over a school! You should love the retro element in a woman having a drink in public being a major political protest. That's the idea, isn't it. If we had kept them in the kitchen, we'd have a proper mayor. I've never got that bit; men, as a whole, are better cooks, imhe.

    Looking back at the BO archives, I think it's a toss-up whether environmental issues or women's issues get the most knee-jerk trolling reactions. Obviously they are deeply threatening to the mossbacks and dick wavers of the world. I guess the enviro trolls are worse. At least these seem to be fresh each time, rather than having to deal with the Amazing Bandwidth Eaters, who know who they are.

  • Matt Pettini (unverified)

    Posted by: nigel | Feb 13, 2009 11:55:54 AM

    God, I hope you're not English. How embarrassing. Just because you're out of ASBO range, doesn't give you a licence to go all footy on everyone.

    Just in case, I offer apologies from the majority of thinking, concerned people in the UK. I've not seen this on the BBC's Hindi service yet. Great reporting!

  • Liz II (unverified)

    An interesting coincidence is that today is the 408th anniversary of the date that the first East India Company voyage sailed from Woolwich, under the charter of Elizabeth I. We are amused and thoughtfully provoked by the piece. Cracking stuff.

    Liz, Regina (sed non Imperatrix)

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    You know, my Hindi is bad enough that I don't know how to say "you're welcome" (if I ever did--I had far more occasion to drop dhanyavads on people). I'm glad you didn't bust out the Kannada--I'd really be in trouble. I actually heard it by chance on the Beeb a couple days ago, but hadn't heard the bit about the pub-going until this morning.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Peter Bray got confused. He meant to write something about fascist Tibetan separatists murdering the peace-loving Chinese People's Liberation Army.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)
    <h2>joel dan walls, your continued pestering by following me to different forums and posting about tibet/china is incredibly obnoxious and immature.</h2>

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