Newest Tools in India's Culture Wars: Facebook and Pink Underwear

How Digitally Savvy Indians Are Fighting the 'Talibanization' of Their Country

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Sourabh Mishra Sourabh Mishra

The word "chaddi," which means underwear in a couple of Indian languages, has become a potent symbol of protest in its pink avatar by a section of young online Indians against what is increasingly being seen as the "Talibanization" of India.

Right-wing Hindu organizations have, over the last few years, taken on the role of moral authority, policing against what they perceive to be activities going against the grain of Indian and Hindu culture. This moral policing often takes on the form of vigilantism, which is a sure-fire recipe for media coverage. They typically target young couples in parks and beaches, and the smaller shops selling Valentine's Day-related merchandise. They physically intimidate these soft-target victims, usually after giving sufficient notice to the press and TV channels, to ensure that the cameras are there to put them in the news.

The latest such incident took place on Jan. 24. Hooligans claiming to be from a little known right-wing Hindu outfit called Shri Ram Sena attacked a pub in the coastal city of Mangalore and mercilessly beat up the young men and women spending a Saturday afternoon there. See a news story here.

The usual expressions of outrage happened with politicians and other similar creatures getting their own shot at instant media fame, giving their party-appropriate soundbites. And that would have been the end of it.

But the age of Facebook activism has now dawned. A bunch of agitated people, mainly women, created a group called "A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women" and launched the "pink chaddi campaign," which exhorts everyone to send the Ram Sena a pink chaddi on Valentine's Day, "because chaddis are forever."

An image posted on Facebook
An image posted on Facebook

At the time of writing, it had about 8,000 members, increasing by the minute. The mainstream media has also picked this up, with the Times of India carrying the story on its front page. Another Facebook group based on this premise is "Kamasutra Day -- A Truly Indian Cultural Event."

The silent Indian minority seems to be finding a platform in Facebook to voice its opinion and it will be interesting to see if this becomes more than a passing fad. I am personally loving it and am hoping that this fringe activism soon metamorphoses into a full-blown movement.

Viva la Pink Chaddis!

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