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Gimme pink!

Move over pink chaddis. The pink condom is here. That’s what supporters of Sri Ram Sene founder Pramod Muthalik aim to give those flooding the man with pink undergarments. It’s their version of “payback time” — communicated online.

Muthalik might have been a little-known figure in India till a few weeks ago. He now seems to have become a topic for unyielding campaigns — for and against him. Not surprisingly, the Pink Condom blog is a mirror image of the one that started it all — www.thepinkchaddicampaign.blogspot.com and its Facebook parent, ‘A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose & Forward Women.’

The Internet is overflowing with sites and campaigns on the Muthalik issue after he instigated an attack on women in a pub in Mangalore. The man who started it all is now in the midst of a virulent movement against him, and a fledgling campaign that seeks to support him. And all this has been on the Internet — highlighting its uncontrollable mobilising powers.

“Our group began on February 5, and by February 7 we had nearly 3,000 members,” explains Benson Isaac, a Bangalore-based educationist and one of the administrators of the Pink Chaddi Campaign blog, which conceived of bombarding Muthalik with pink panties on Valentine’s Day. About 32,000 people have now joined the campaign.

That’s not the only site actively campaigning against Muthalik. Rajeev Gowda, professor of economics and social sciences at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, and a political activist, rallied scores of Bangaloreans through his blog, www.bengaluru-unites.blogspot.com, on the issue. “What this event has thrown up is the instant powers of the Net. Unlike the aftermath of the blasts in Mumbai, when online anger dealt with a range of issues — from ways to deal with terror, Pakistan bashing and the ineptitude of our political class — the focus of the current development seems pointed. So organising became easier,” he says.

His agenda was to bring out Bangaloreans from different walks of life for half an hour at lunch time on February 12 “for a peaceful demonstration without disrupting traffic.” Again, overnight, Gowda’s blog was inundated with posts and comments. And on Thursday, 2,300 students alone turned up to form human chains across key intersections in Bangalore. “For a member of civil society, I couldn’t have imagined organising something of this nature overnight without the Net. And at zero cost,” says Gowda.

Gowda’s blog stating his agenda was linked with friends and fellow colleagues. “Within a day we got responses from scores of people in Bangalore. Volunteers stepped in and proposed the idea of linking the various colleges in Bangalore. The whole thing went into auto-pilot mode,” exclaims an animated Gowda.

On his part, Bangalore-based software entrepreneur Musten Jiruwala formed the group “Create Fear Free Society — Get Well Soon, Mamu” on Facebook. “We are not frontally opposing the Ram Sene and getting into a confrontation,” says Jiruwala. “Our point is to tell people to continue with their lives despite opposition. The only way to teach these guys a lesson is stubborn resistance.” Taking a leaf out of Lage Raho Munna Bhai, participants at a rally held at India Gate in Delhi, in Bangalore and in Mumbai on Valentine’s Day on Saturday held placards urging ‘Mamu,’ aka Muthalik, to get well soon.

The group’s members have also uploaded scores of songs and videos from popular Hindi films poking fun at the likes of Muthalik. A pretty popular video likens Muthalik to a frustrated, love-deprived Devdas-like figure. “I just created the group which has caught the pulse of the people. And now I have just no control,” laughs Jiruwala.

Disdain, clearly, is the weapon of Netizens. The Pink Chaddi Campaign, for instance, has put up two cartoons done by Indian cooperative Amul poking fun at Muthalik. “Pink chaddi, yellow buddy,” says one of the cartoons, depicting the pony-tailed Amul mascot being hugged by a boy and a girl.

But Muthalik’s supporters aren’t to be left behind either. With around 50 anonymous members as of now, www.thepinkcondomcampaign.blogpsot.com, calls itself a “democratic and transparent forum — and a response to some self righteous and progressive people who started the Pink Chaddi campaign.” It has already received 2,289 votes favouring its cause, and 1,398 against. It has the same background colour and fonts used by Pink Chaddi.

And if the Pink Chaddi campaign has put up the official Karnataka address of Pramod Muthalik to send undergarments to, the counter campaign has posted the addresses and the phone numbers of the Pink Chaddi administrators to send in pink condoms. These have resulted in some obscene and impolite calls for the administrators of the Pink Chaddi Campaign. “And no, we haven’t yet got — and don’t mind getting - free condoms in any case,” chuckles a Pink Chaddi administrator.

Other networking sites such as Orkut aren’t to be left behind either. The rhetoric here is markedly sharper. “Jai Ho Muthalik” has around 280 members as of now exhorting members to usher in a “Hindu rashtra” and “protect Hindu values.” Another Orkut group, “Pramod Muthalik — Proud to be Hindu”, tries to rationalise some of Muthalik’s fumigations, defending his charge against “Western deviations.”

However, for all the obvious disseminating powers of the Web, social commentator Ramachandra Guha adds a note of caution. “Although I’m glad civil society is up against forces that try to curb our freedoms, the campaigns in Bangalore are satirical and frivolous in nature. An Obama didn’t become US President because of his online savvy alone — it was also a campaign with great substance and ideas,” he says.

The role of the web in India in terms of civil mobilisation, Guha argues, is over-estimated. “How many people have access to it in any case,” he asks. One too many, Muthalik would rue.

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