On Feb. 6, I received an invitation from a friend to join a group on Facebook--A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women. The group had been created a day back and had garnered a few hundred members. I instantly recognized what this movement was all about and decided to join it.
Here's the group's description: "Join us on Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, the day on which Indian women's virginity and honor will self-destruct unless they marry or tie a rakhi. Walk to the nearest pub and buy a drink. Raise a toast to the Sri Ram Sene."
The group already has nearly 16,000 members and is growing by the minute.
Sri Ram Sene is a "right-wing" organization that calls itself the custodian of the Indian (read: Hindu) culture. They view the growing popularity of the Valentine's Day, the rising culture of going to pubs and discotheques (by young boys and girls) an organized conspiracy of the West. In an interview with a TV station, the Sri Ram Sene's chief Pramod Muthalik, termed these trends an attack on Hinduism by Christianity (and all these years, I thought Valentine's Day (V-day) was the perfect marketing gimmick greeting card companies, hotels, bars, jewelry brands, etc, had stumbled upon).
On Jan. 25, members of the Sri Ram Sene had barged into a pub in Mangalore and assaulted girls who were there. Their reasoning: the pub culture isn't Indian, and this was needed to keep the mothers and daughters safe from the onslaught of Western ideology.
The Sri Ram Sene has threatened to get boys and girls married if they are seen holding hands on V-day. Either they get married, or the girl ties the boy a rakhi (a band that a sister ties on her brother's wrist on a Hindu festival called Rakhi)
However inane and bizarre this controversy may sound, it is yet another divide within this country. The Indian economy may have grown at a fast pace, but mindsets have not. In urban India, highly-educated and modern women exist alongside women who still live behind veils and are not allowed to speak in front of their fathers, brothers and husbands.
I have never waited for Valentine's Day more eagerly. I really want to see whether this is just another "virtual" group, or whether its members actually will step out and fight the Sri Ram Sene. If this group is actually able to stand up against the Sri Ram Sene on Feb. 14, then I would say that social networking has really come of age.
It certainly promises to be one of the strongest pressure groups the world has ever seen.