India’s pink panties campaign-Pink Chaddi

March 6, 2009

The pink panties protest and its run-ins with facebook
The Pink Chaddi Campaign:
On facebook:

In the last two weeks an online campaign has caught the imagination of 50,000 people in and outside of India. The campaign was initiated (5 Feb) in response to the attacks on women in pubs in Mangalore, by what was quixotically called the Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women. Horrifying images of the Mangalore attack (Jan 24) were flashed repeatedly on television across the country, and what was more upsetting was that there was no news of prosecution of the offenders. Perhaps that is the reason why a facebook group that in its initial days had 100 members suddenly took off and spiralled in membership rapidly and sparked off an unexpected media circus. The basic idea behind the campaign was to respond to the men in khakhi chaddis (underwear/shorts) – which is the uniform of the cadres of the hindu right and splinter hindu right groups – by sending pink chaddis (underwear/panties).

As such the idea is diabolical, because instead of living in a climate of fear, the act seems to make the hindu right and other groups that would want women to conform to an idea of Indian culture, look like fools. At another level it is rife with complications and divisions – the group is elitist (as all online campaigns in India might be accused of being), the methods are politically immature (because politics otherwise is the domain of sageness), that it is asking for a backlash on the bodies of women.

There are many opinions on the matter, and I can post a few links to articles and opinions about the pink chaddis/panties campaign. Comparisions were made to the Panties for Peace protest in Myanmar against the military junta, to the image of the Manipuri women walking naked to protest violence and brutalities.

What is of interest here is that it is one of the first campaigns in India, conducted and initiated online, that atleast I have seen, have such an impact on mainstream politics. That has a membership of over 50,000 people on the facebook group alone. However there were many interesting hurdles in the process, most of them related to using facebook for activism.

1. Facebook doesn’t allow messages or emails to be sent to members of the group, once the membership exceeds 5000 people. It also isn’t a particularly useful forum for debate or discussion. Nonetheless some of the discussion groups on the facebook group are a valuable insight into what many young people think of politics.

2. Facebook is vulnerable to hack attacks (I’m sure the JIDF attacks are well known in this group). The Consortium was hacked into six times apparently. Once it was named the Consortium of Baby Killing etc.etc. and the second time it was called LOL.

So far there doesn’t seem to be any government action on the group, though there probably will be charges of defamation by the hindu right splinter group, which in the light of the recent (offhand) judgment on bloggers being responsible even for comments on the blog, doesn’t bode well for the Consortium. Though defamation as a charge may not stick, obscenity might be a far more serious charge to tackle. The charges of defamation will be against people who sent the panties – so far it seems that amongst those who will be sued there will be Nisha Susan (creator of the facebook group) and Alternative Law Forum.

The experience has also been rather confusing because of the contradictions between the ways in which activists usually tackle such issues, and that the campaign as a whole may have lost sight of a wider picture that it isn’t only about women, but also about people living in a climate of fear and increasing communlisation of politics. In the events leading up to Valentine’s day there was euphoria at finally being able to take a stand against the hindu right, but as many rightly predicted, in the aftermath, there have been several random attacks on women in Bangalore and probably elsewhere.

Some articles on the pink chaddi campaign, its successes and troubles.

Sagarika Ghose

Economic times on the brand of pink chaddi

Random attacks on young women in Bangalore

4 Responses to “India’s pink panties campaign-Pink Chaddi”

  1. […] security measures, and the Facebook team is often not responsive to pleas of redressal. The FACThai Blog had written about the possibility of such attacks on the Pink Chaddi group last month and now, the […]

  2. […] security measures, and the Facebook team is often not responsive to pleas of redressal. The FACThai Blog had written about the possibility of such attacks on the Pink Chaddi group last month and now, the […]

  3. […] security measures, and the Facebook team is often not responsive to pleas of redressal. The FACThai Blog had written about the possibility of such attacks on the Pink Chaddi group last month and now, the […]

  4. R.Sajan Says:

    Misha Susan wroteon 11 April2009:
    The hackers have been at our facebook groups for a while (perhaps you noticed *smile*). For now the group seems to be disabled because dear Facebook has disabled my account instead of dealing with our security issues. Bizarre but such is inscrutable corporate logic.
    Hang in there. We will be back.

    This is all very sad. To have fallen thus after vanquishing the entire Indian masculinity by merely throwing pink panties at them!

    We must consider what else to throw now. Or shall we hand over the entire issue to the Afghan Taliban and seek their protection? They are perhaps, the only secular force that can teach the Hindu Fascists the right lesson.

    The very reason for wearing panties is that private parts have to be protected from infection by bacteria and virile viruses. It looks as if by throwing away our panties, we have laid ourselves open to easy infection.

    Not by bullets, but by panties; seems to have failed. We might have to go back to Mahatma Gandhi again. Something like a Chaddi March, perhaps; from the Pub in Mangalore? To some Mallya brewery and make Beer.

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