Pink Chaddi campaign (India)
Mobilising a community around a specific issue which affects it, can rest solely on how smart your message is and how you engage them to participate.
In late January 2009, a group of 40 members of right-wing Hindu group Sri Ram Sena attacked women and men in a pub in the Indian city of Mangalore. They were upset with the women for engaging in behavior they found immoral, claiming that the girls were disrepecting traditional Indian values. Video footage of the event spread across Youtube in India, sparking outrage among many at the attack on innocent women.
The founder of the group, Pramod Muthalik publicly endorsed the attacks and announced plans that any unmarried couples spotted in public on Valentines Day will be forcibly married by members of his group.
How could women and men react to this right-wing group attempts at “moral policing” and take a stand before future attacks?
In response a group of women formed the “Consortium of Pub-going, Loose, and Forward Women” (PLFW) on Facebook. Within a week, the group had 40,000 members. PLFW called on members to participate offline by sending "pink chaddis" to Muthalik.. Why chaddis? As Nisha Susan, one of the group's organisers, says: “ 'Chaddi' is a childish word for underwear and slang for right-wing hardliners ... It amused us to embrace the worst slurs, to send pretty packages of intimate garments to men who say they hate us."
The Pink Chaddi campaign mobilised support very quickly; with no leader, they organised collectively on Facebook. Muthalik received 2000 pink chaddis from India and abroad. The campaign received a lot of media attention because of it was sensational, humorous and a little ridiculous. Days before Valentine’s Day, Muthalik called off his threat of Valentine's Day violence. He and his supporters were placed in preventive custody by the state government.
On reflection, the organisers realised that it was problematic to rely solely on a proprietary platform like Facebook for organising and managing their membership base. When Facebook disabled the group's messaging function (because the membership exceeded 5000) or when Facebook revoked access after their page got hacked, they had no other means to access their members. So although it was a useful tool to target the local audience, Facebook being very popular at the time, it created new vulnerabilities that the organisers did not have time or experience to foresee.
[This article is based on Movements.org's case study on the Pink Chaddi campaign.]
Hindi Blogosphere’s Reactions to the Pink Chaddi Campaign Show the Divide Between Bharat and India, International Values and Communications Technologies Blog, 2009
Three Lessons Activists and Marketers Can Learn From India’s Valentine’s Day Pink Panty Campaign International Values and Communications Technologies Blog, 2009
The Valentines Day Pink Chaddi Campaign: Indian Pubgoing Women Vs. Shri Ram Sena, International Values and Communications Technologies Blog, 2009
Pink Chaddis All Piled Up, YouTube, 2009