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.
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.
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.And now we arrive, after mammoth backstory, to the beer-related portion of the narrative. In addition to sending pink chaddis to pinch-faced Hindu men, the ladies are making a separate call for women around the globe to go to a pub and raise a pint in solidarity. Because, as their Facebook tagline says, "the Sri Ram Sena needs us loose and forward Indian women."
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.)
Here in Beervana, it's hardly a transgressive act for women to go to pubs. Let's all raise our pints tomorrow in solidarity for those for whom it is. You have your marching orders--to arms!