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'If they were trying to protect our culture, this is not our culture!'

January 28, 2009
Chatting about classes, with books and papers tucked under their arms, we came across four college girls walking along a subway (underpass) in south Mumbai. They were ordinary college girls, going about their business... until we brought up the Mangalore incident (that occurred last weekend when dozen or more hoodlums stormed into a pub and attacked young women for being 'improperly dressed' and 'behaving immodestly').

The transformation all four girls went through was startling. Each one was passionate and, quite clearly, enraged at the footage shown on television.

They had fierce views about their safety in Mumbai, India's pub culture and our politicians:

Valsa, 25, a student in Mumbai, was upset with the country's leaders. She says, "My mom calls all politicians thugs. I don't think they have accepted the fact that we live in a civil society and that they need to behave in a civil manner."

"I'd like to share something I read on a T-shirt yesterday -- 'If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?'" she adds.

Sanjana, 20, joined in, "I don't know why it takes so long for them (the authorities) to act after these incidents (happen). Why does the media have to intervene and put on the pressure for them to act?"

Tuhina, 21, feels that the people in the pub should have done something to stop the men, who allegedly belonged to an outfit called the Shri Ram Sena, from beating up the women.

Sanjana agrees, saying, "It was really appalling -- everyone was just walking by. Only one person came forward to help. The rest didn't care. They were seeing them (the girls) being beaten and they kept walking."

Jolene, 22, has another perspective: "The first and foremost thing is not to succumb to the fear they are trying to instill in us. If you react to it, they are winning, right?"

Twenty-one-year-old Pallavi, from Delhi, doesn't agree. She feels that the youth needs to stop pretending to be unaffected by everything that happens. She feels the time has come to be affected and to raise her voice.

When it comes to visiting pubs, the girls claim they are not in the least bit scared. "You can't stop going out just because these incidents happen. That means you're giving in to what they want," feels Tuhina.

Attack on women: Raise your voice NOW!

This group of girls do not find anything wrong in India developing a pub culutre. Says Valsa, "What about it? Is it against the Indian culture? Alcohol has been in India for 2,000 years or more. Dancing is not wrong. Then what is wrong about it? The fact that they go out in the night?"

Tuhina, who hails from Delhi, agrees, "Ya, all the maharanis used to smoke and drink. Why stop anybody else?"

Sanjana says, "I can understand how low those girls must have felt, the way those guys were pushing and throwing them around. If they were trying to protect our culture, this is not our culture!"

"Regardless of culture, women have a certain place -- you can't cross those bounds of decency in the name of culture." adds Tuhina.

Their views may differ, but this group of girls is full of rage. As well as an unwillingness to stay quiet about the issue.

Text: Insiyah Vahanvaty. Video: Rajesh Karkera

Also see: 'How dare these people terrorise young girls!'

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