NEW YORK – Women throughout the world — 13,000 at latest count — will be sending Pramod Mutalik a pair of pink panties for Valentine's Day. But these undies won't make his heart go pitty-pat.
Mutalik is the leader of Sri Ram Sena (Lord Ram’s Army) — an extreme right-wing organization in India that purports to be the “custodians of Indian Culture.”
Members of Mutalik's group are suspected of being behind a widely publicized incident last month in which a group of men brutally attacked women in a bar in the southern city of Mangalore — beating them, and kicking them when they fell to the ground. Mutalik was arrested in the attack, but he was released on bail.
Just last week he was quoted as saying, “Valentine’s Day is definitely not Indian Culture and we will not allow celebration of that day in any form.”
India's Minister for Women, Renuka Chowdhury, has called the Mangalore attack and other actions by the Sri Ram Sena a symptom of the "Talibanization" of India. The Sri Ram Sena, like the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, often takes justice into its own hands and prosecutes people according to its own cultural and religious beliefs.
“It is regressive and patriarchal like nothing else we’ve seen in a long time,” says Isha Manchanda, one of four young Indian women who have banded together to fight back — with pink panties.
They've founded a Facebook group called the ‘Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women,’ and a blog called The Pink Chaddi Campaign, and they are asking women all over the world to send pink chaddi’s — panties — to Mutalik. The group has over 13,000 supporters so far.
The Consortium sarcastically says it wants Saturday — Valentine's Day — to be “the day in which Indian women’s virginity and honour will self-destruct unless they marry or tie on a rakhi, a bracelet that signifies two people of the opposite gender are brother and sister. Walk to the nearest pub and buy a drink. Raise a toast to the Sri Ram Sena.”
“The response has been amazing," Karishma Upadhyay, another founding member, said in an e-mail to FOXNews.com. "The media has been very supportive and people from across the world have joined the group. There are collection points in three or four cities across India.”
Manchanda echoed Upadhyay’s sentiments. “The response to the Pink Chaddi Campaign has been phenomenal! We’re constantly getting calls from all around the country from people who want to help collect the underwear.”
Upadhyay said she feels secure when she goes out because “It is very safe for women to go to pubs in the larger cities. It is not uncommon to see groups of women in pubs in Mumbai or Delhi.
"But in smaller towns and cities, parties like the Sri Ram Sena, Shiv Sena, or Bajrang Dal clamp down on activities that they think are against the ‘Indian Culture.’ Which is pure B.S.”
The government has condemned the attacks that fueled the chaddi campaign, and has called the Sri Ram Sena a threat, but Upadhyay doesn’t feel that their efforts are enough.
“The government says that they are ‘investigating,’ but no action has been taken against the perpetrators,” she said. “It is important to nip such actions by political parties in the bud.”
A third founding member, Ratna Appnender, sees the Sri Ram Sena as only part of the problem. “I feel Mutalik’s group represents the growth of right-wing conservative politics and its impact on society," she said.
"It is a minor aspect of the larger issue of growing religious and cultural fundamentalism in India and in the world.”