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Give saffron hooligans a pink trim

by Jug Suraiya, 10 February 2009

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The Times of India

The power of pink

Rotten eggs and squishy tomatoes as instruments of critical negotiation are out. So are shoes, as were recently hurled at George Bush, Chinese
premier Wen Jiabao, and Kerala CPM office-bearer Pinarayi Vijayan. The latest weapons of mass detraction are chaddis, more specifically pink chaddis. The target is the chief of the Sri Ram Sene, Pramod Muthalik, whose goons beat up young women in Mangalore for their ’un-Indian’ behaviour of going to pubs. In response, over 3,000 people of both genders and various professions from all over the country have formed The Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women with the intention of sending cartloads of pink lingerie to the Sene leader. While a Bangalore spokesperson for the Sene has riposted that "no one from good families would resort to such cheap steps" (thereby implying that beating up women was the sign of a ’good family’ background), the Delhi-based initiator of the movement, Nisha Susan, has been quoted in TOI [Times of India] saying that "The chaddi is slang for right-wing hardliners and the saffron agenda, while pink stands for things that are frivolous. The combination is offensive."

All those who believe that ours is and shall continue to be a free society, despite the likes of the Sene, will thoroughly approve of the ’pink chaddi’ campaign which should get the saffronites’ knickers in a twist. However, some might disagree with the definition of pink as a ’frivolous’ colour. In fact, in the semantics of shade, pink conveys a power of meaning.

Pink has long signified romantic love. Barbara Cartland the Maharani of maha-romance and the acclaimed ’Goddess of Gush’ was renowned for her pink boudoir, carefully colour-coordinated to include a couple of suitably primrose-rinsed Pekingese.

Pink is associated not only with Cupid but also with a very different type of infatuation, namely soft-core communism. While a hardcore Commie is a Red, a left liberal socialist is often derogatively described as a ’pinko’, an epithet that endorses the subject’s anti-right credentials and as such is seen as a truly left-handed compliment.

But perhaps the most eloquent use of pink in the articulation of social and sexual freedom has been in the domain of gay liberation. All over the world, including India, gays and lesbians are coming out of the mothballed closet of obscurantist morality into the unabashed light of day in public shows of solidarity often referred to as pink parades. One doesn’t necessarily have to belong to the gay persuasion to march in a pink parade. Anyone who believes that in a true democracy the right to choose one’s sexual identity is as much a fundamental right as the right to choose one’s political candidate in an election, or the right to choose one’s spiritual belief in the form of a religion (which includes that most passionate and vocal of all religions, atheism), is free to participate in a parade where people can wear their pink hearts on their sleeves without guilt or the fear of social censure, and worse. Regrettably, thanks to hopelessly outdated laws borrowed from Victorian England, homosexuality is still a jailable offence in India. All those who would cast a vote for democracy, can only hope that the progressive power of pink will subvert these antiquated laws sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, it’s no bad thing that saffron hooliganism be given a pink trim. Who knows? The violent misogyny displayed by the Sene thugs might be a macho camouflage for deeply repressed trans-gender desires. By encouraging sartorial experimentation the pink chaddi campaign might well help to liberate potential cross-dressers in the Sene. To further this excellent objective the chaddi campaign could be followed up with a donation drive, comprising the whole kit and caboodle, including pink bras and pink bangles. And the saffron Sene might well find itself transformed into what else? the Pink Panthers.