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Pink Panties Campaign on Valentine’s Day united more than 45000 people who were against attacking women and such discrimination

“Its success came from the fact that the campaign was innovative, almost bizarre, and appealing to the youth too. The cause got wide coverage, embarrassing conservatives justifying restrictions on women or religious-infighting among different groups in this diverse country,” says one of articles on Digiactivism. View video here and read a case study of this campaign read below in Sex Workers' Advocacy School.

Interviewer: Namita, you were involved in the Pink Panties campaign. Could you tell us a bit about it? How it came about and how serious it was?

Interviewee: The Pink Chudi campaign was started by something called the Consortium of Pub-going, News and Forward Women. It was a group that was formed on Facebook. Actually, I signed on just as a participant initially. And then later on, since a lot of the action was centered around Bangalore, my organization got involved as a connection point for the pink panties to be sent.

Interviewer: How many panties did you collect?

Interviewee: We collected about, I would say, almost a thousand…

Interviewer: Just by way of background, if you could explain what it means?

Interviewee: The group was formed as a response to the attacks that were engineered by Sri Ram Sena and by Promud Matalik [?], on women who were going to pubs, saying …

Interviewer: These are conservative religious groups, basically…

Interviewee: Yeah, conservative religious groups… in the context of Kranatica, recent communalization. The fact that the Hindu right is trying to produce this monolithic idea of India culture is problematic at various points. But this group was formed basically in response to the fact that women were attacked. And probably the only thing that all the 40 thousand members of the group agree on…

Interviewer… 45 thousand…

Interviewee: … 45 thousand members of the group agree on is that they don’t think that women should be attacked and that violence in some ways is not part of Indian culture.

Interviewer: Also the discriminatory treatment between men and women. It seems to be that men can go to pubs and women can’t.

Interviewee: Yes. So basically, it is a response to that violent attack, the images of which were flashed on television, all across the country.

Interviewer: But why send these guys pink panties? What’s the logic of that?

Interviewee: The logic is that, we know them as the Khaki chudi-varas. The pink chudi is in response to the khaki chudi. It is in some ways a frivolous idea…

Interviewer: … Ironic, satirical…

Interviewee: It is satirical, and an unexpected response more than anything. I think they expected the women’s movement to wear black bands and get on to the streets and carry out marches…

Interviewer: Which is old hat…

Interviewee: which is a tried and tested model, it has its effectiveness but it is becoming less and less…

Interviewer: …ceases to shock, ceases to make an impact…

Interviewee: Yeah, and ceases to get new people into what you are protesting against. So it is a frivolous response and it is about using humour and levity to engage with the Hindu right to make a serious statement.

Interviewer: Would you say that this is the way that young people kind of connect more with campaigns… rather than something more serious -you know-, street protest… a combination of Facebook with a ludicrous idea is something that attracts people

Interviewee: I would agree with the fact that this ludicrous idea has a certain appeal. That it is online also accesses a different population as well, which is not usually part of your activism and protests, etc. So it does have a certain currency. I would think it is not about youth or young people as such because the attack is on young people. These are young people whose behaviour is being attacked in saying that “you are not part of Indian culture.” I think that if it was any other issue, maybe a ludicrous idea online might appeal to different kinds of people.

Interviewer: Not necessarily the young…

Interviewee: Not necessarily. But young people have a certain ease with being online that maybe other generations don’t

Interviewer: So how did the campaign move in that sense? Faster than you expected?

Interviewee: The campaign moved way faster than we expected. We did not even expect to have such broad appeal. We probably thought that us and a few friends of ours –as it usually happens at a protest - would turn up and send their pink chutis. And it was also a way for us to act out our anger and resentment. It suddenly exploded beyond all expectations. It went from 8 thousand to 16 thousand in the course of a day and it’s been growing since then.
Interviewer: The media impact was also huge, in that sense, and it helped the campaign?

Interviewee: Yes.

Interviewer: The media tends to pick up on these frivolous things so…

Interviewee: The media wants a Valentine’s Day story for February 14th and so…

Interviewer: … something totally unusual, maybe at a global level it is unusual also…

Interviewee: It grew radically, way beyond expectation. The media coverage was so intense that we had ten media vans at one point…. Sitting outside our office in Bangalore. And that was completely unexpected because we were at that point tangentially involved; we were a collection and there was no one at that point to even speak to the media or make sense of it. And during the next couple of days everyone got their act together and started picking up on the fact that it is becoming sensational and we should utilise this momentum in some way. It began as a personal act, I would say, and it snowballed because a lot of people seemed to think that this was a way that they would like to respond to Promud Matalik.

Interviewer: You have been a lawyer basically working on civil liberties, human rights issues; how does that work tie up with this work? What is the signal that you get from this kind of campaigning – that there is a whole new ball game out there waiting to be tried?

Interviewee: Yes, I would say that there is a whole new terrain of possibilities that have opened up because of online activism. I don’t necessarily see that there is such a great connection with the other work that ALF is doing. ALF is involved in cases regarding the attacks on churches in Karnatica. I don’t think necessarily these two groups speak to each other but at the same time, both of them are extremely valuable – extremely valuable ways of protesting the increasing communalisation of life and politics in Karnatica.

Interviewer: There was a threat of these groups sending you pink saris in return. What happened to that?

Interviewee: On February 14th we got saris. The threat was that they would collect saris from different parts of Karnatica and sent them to us, but we got only 6 saris – and six new saris. They weren’t particularly old saris or collected saris.

Interviewer: What do you plan to do next? Will your campaign go offline? On to the real world?

Interviewee: I think the campaign is sort of participating in the real world and is making an impact in politics in a way that many other groups have not been able to do so. But where campaign goes now is a question that is up for grabs. I think it is difficult to find something 45 thousand people agree on and I guess it has to be seen. This is not a regular activist reign where people can make these decisions. Maybe these 45 thousand people are just a group of well meaning people that will take on actions maybe next Valentine’s Day, next year or maybe they will take on actions next time there is an attack or maybe they will proactively do something to protest their descent to politics that divides people.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1R0Q8TLNQQ

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