MUMBAI (Reuters) - Thousands of Indians, many fuming over a recent assault on women in a pub, are vowing to fill bars on Valentine’s Day and send cartons of pink panties to a radical Hindu group that has branded outgoing females immoral.
A “consortium of pub-going, loose and forward women,” founded by four Indian women on social networking website Facebook has, in a matter of days, attracted more than 25,000 members with over 2,000 posts about the self-appointed moral police.
The women said their mission was to go bar-hopping on February 14 and send hundreds of pink knickers to Sri Ram Sena, the militant Hindu group that has said pubs are for men, and that women should stay at home and cook for their husbands.
The same Hindu group was blamed for attacking women in a bar in the southern city of Mangalore in January, an incident that sparked a national debate about women’s freedoms in India.
Collection centers have sprung up in several cities, with volunteers calling for bright pink old-fashioned knickers as gifts to the Sri Ram Sena as a mark of defiance.
“Girl power! Go girls, go. Show Ram Sena... who’s the boss,” reads one post on Facebook from Larkins Dsouza.
There is a separate campaign to “Walk to the nearest pub and buy a drink (and) raise a toast,” that has found supporters from Toronto to Bangkok to Sydney, with even teetotalers saying they will get a drink on Saturday to show solidarity.
“Though I don’t promote smoking or drinking for both sexes, we definitely don’t need hooligans telling us what to do and what not. Best of luck!,” reads one post from Iftehar Ahsan.
There are more heated discussion threads as well that range from the limits of independence to religion and politics, reflecting the struggle facing a country that has long battled to balance its deep-rooted traditions with rapid modernization.
Growing numbers of young and independent urban women have become an easy target for religious fundamentalists and aging politicians trying to force traditional mores on an increasingly liberal, Western outlook.
Not to be outdone, the Sri Ram Sena, which has cautioned shops and pubs in southern Karnataka state against marking Valentine’s Day, has promised to gift pink saris to women and marry off canoodling couples to make them “respectable.”
Reporting by Rina Chandran; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Miral Fahmy