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'Love doesn't fall under purview of any culture'
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February 17, 2009
The past few weeks have been tumultuous for Karnataka, which has witnessed an attack on a group of women in a pub and couples being hounded on Valentine's Day by members of the Sri Ram Sene.

Professor Rajeev Gowda, who teaches economics and social sciences at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, last week organised a human chain in the city to protest against moral policing by the right-wing organisation. It received an overwhelming response with thousands of people, including students, office-goers and the elderly, joining in.

In an interview with rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, Gowda explains the need to speak out against moral policing.

What do you think about the Sri Ram Sene? Do you think their actions are justified?

Every person has the right to have his/her own point of view as this is a free country. But nobody has the right to assault anybody. I don't approve of violence in any form. Legitimate protests are fine, provided they are peaceful in nature.

I feel that this is a very calculative move by the Ram Sena and its activists. They were aware that if they fought against women's right to drink alcohol, they would secure the support of some conservatives.

Why are such events emerging out of Mangalore?

Mangalore has definitely changed a lot. The Mangalore I knew two decades ago was very liberal. Now everything has been communalised; the very nature of the city has changed. Talking to a person from a different religion is not tolerated in Mangalore anymore.

The Sri Ram Sene claims that Valentine's Day is not part of Indian culture, so why did you oppose them?

Love does not fall under the purview of any culture. We just want to support the people who wish to express their love freely. It is not as though we are encouraging people to have sex on the streets.

The Sene has received a tremendous amount of publicity due to people like you who are opposing their actions as well as the media.

The Ram Sene might have received publicity across India, but don't forget that they have been mocked by the entire country. It was necessary to tell the people to fight against the fear triggered by activists of the Sene.

Let me clarify one point. Our protest did not even mention the Ram Sene at any point. I don't want to dignify them by taking their name. We have made the public aware of their rights. The protests have been so strong and well accepted that they will one day run with their tails tucked between their legs.

Would people like you and Nisha Susan (who started the pink chaddi campaign) act so enthusiastically against the problems of women in Indian villages? Are you aware that women in villages face worse problems that are never highlighted by the media?

It is not fair for you to say that. We are aware of the problems faced by rural women. The reality in rural India is really sad. I assure you that if anyone is prepared to fight for their cause, I will be the first one to stand up for them.

What are your views on the pink chaddi vs sari campaign?

I think both were meaningless. Ideally, bangles should have been gifted to activists of the Ram Sene, not pink chaddis.

Now that Valentine's Day is over, do you think the demonstration in its support was a waste of time?

A lot of people came out in support of the demonstration. Women have overcome their fear and now they know that they can fight. Despite the overall climate of fear in Karnataka, women have stood up to fight back and many men have stood along with them.


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