Holi being played in Mathura (representational image) |PTI
Holi being played in Mathura (representational image) |PTI
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The debate shouldn’t be about what the balloon contained, but the increased harassment of women during Holi. 

My college is my safe haven. It is a place where I find my voice, and raise it. Over the past year, I have managed to keep my calm because my college ensured I was fine, emotionally and physically.

At Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College, you can say, do and wear what you want. But outside its gates, there is the real world, a rude reality check and a reminder that no matter how hard women try to create safe spaces, harassment will catch up.

In our early childhood, we have all had to sit down and write essays on festivals. The words ‘Holi is the festival of colour and joy’ were embedded in our brains. Until I turned 12. After that, Holi became a festival when my body became a commodity that could be objectified, and mocked, in the name of ‘festive spirit’.  Each year, the list of do’s and dont’s increased. By the time I was 16, my family and I had mutually concluded that I would be better off sitting at home during Holi.

This week, a first-year student took to social media to talk about an incident where she was hit by a balloon filled with semen. It didn’t take long for the post to go viral. Her classmates, seniors and women from other colleges immediately expressed their solidarity. Everyone condemned the incident and raised the issue of increased harassment during Holi.

The Women Development Cell at my college had a meeting where everything that could have been done to make the college back gate area safer was set into motion, including increased police surveillance.

But as soon as this first-year student dared to raise her voice against the festival being a free pass for assault, she was questioned, shamed and trolled so much on social media that she now refuses to speak about it anymore. People on the Internet asked for proof, and some even went on to ‘scientifically’ discuss how it was impossible for the balloon to be filled with semen, and that the white residue on her black pants was probably rice starch. The questions that need to be raised are not whether the balloon contains some perverted man’s bodily fluids or rice starch, and if the girl is crying wolf or not.

The conversation we need to have is about why a man, without consent, hit her with a balloon, whether filled with semen or not, in the name of a festival. A festival that is supposed to celebrate the end of evil has resulted in a new form of hell for women every year. On this day, men find an excuse, a culturally supported loophole, to assault women because “bura na mano holi hai”. This recent incident only stands as a proof of that.

Gurmehar Kaur is a writer and student activist.

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14 Comments Share Your Views

14 COMMENTS

  1. Another bogus article from a bogus person. When you’re going out on Holi whether you’re a girl or a guy, people will throw balloons at you. Yes, they throw balloons at a guy too! Surprised? It’s a festival of colours when people apply colours on each other, no matter the gender, age or religion. If you don’t want to be applied colour on, why do you even go outside and for what purpose since all the offices, colleges and shops are closed on the day of Holi? This post is senseless and the person who made it lacks basic common sense. Applying colours on someone is not harassment, and definitely not sexual harassment. You cannot cry patriarchy whenever you want to and get away with it with insulting a religion.

  2. No doubt a disgraceful act, but the semen part could have been left out. It could have been seven up. Or was it tested in a laboratory,

  3. semen is quiet difficult to collect in a balloon, and look at the timing of incident. Holi is around and this year this semen balloon is the highlight of Holi. The girl nowhere mentions that it was a holi balloon and may be some of her hater did this but all liberal newspapers have started abusing the Hindu festival.
    Wherever you will see this news, a picture of Holi will be attached-with to give an impression that we must not celebrate a Hindu festival.
    If really such incident has happened why not go to police instead of posting it on Instagram?
    This incident will disappear after Holi and something new will come-up on Rakhi, than on Diwali some asthma patient kid will file a petition in court. This will continue until we start returning these morons in their own currency.

    BTW, I am just trying to find a single Hindu festival that is liked by secular liberals of India…. still searching………

  4. Semen-filled balloons did not ruin my Holi.. Gurmeher Kaurs Did!
    The voyeurs creating such nuisance must be dealt very strongly but i am afraid, such people may find another ruse. Having said, why blame the beautiful festival of Holi?? Can’t we see the hidden agenda of leftist-liberals to vilify Hindu festivals ??

  5. ” The conversation we need to have is about why a man, without consent, hit her with a balloon, whether filled with semen or not, in the name of a festival. ” !!! oh my god… the new ultra feminist is loosing it fast .. So, from now on, when any one is playing holi , they should take prior approval from everyone that they are going to put some colour .. It reads “Madam, I request you to approve my application to apply holi colors to you this holi .. I may use some egg nog as well.. Yours faithfully .. **** “

    • Well, you sure should do that! If you are not related to the person, how can you expect them to play Holi with you? That’s just ridiculous.
      Holi is a festival celebrated all across India but people don’t go to random people’s houses to celebrate it. Do you? Because I celebrate it with my family and friends – the people I know, not absolute strangers. And even if a stranger is passing by, they ask us if they can put colours on us and we exchange sweets. That’s the core purpose and the core ethic of holi or rather any festival.
      So yes! Yes you need to send me an application before doing something as perverted as flinging balloons at my body. Go play with your own mother or your sisters.

      • Miss Chhavi, since when did one require permission to throw a balloon on someone? You say that you only play holi with people you know and not with strangers and it’s the likes of you who would die to play holi if that stranger was your heart-throb filmstar like John Abraham or Shahrukh Khan!! Then everything would be allowed, no questions asked. Let me tell you that balloons are thrown at every stranger irrespective of sex, caste, color, creed etc etc. I have often got angry on children who throw it on me whenever i’m going for work on the days preceding holi but girls like you have taken this too too far!!

        • Mr. Amit, in no way I made the insinuation that you need permission to throw a balloon at someone. But specifically aiming for the parts of a woman’s body that have always been sexualised, that’s what I’m against.
          Yes, in an ideal world, you would argue that there is nothing wrong with throwing balloons at strangers (be it a man or a woman), like in an ideal world, one would let their child go to a house two blocks down and play. But the society we live in today, I guess it is safe to say that the world is not an ideal place, and yes a parent wouldn’t even fathom the thought of letting their child even walk to the market alone.
          You being an adult tell me, will you throw a balloon on a woman’s chest/back if you don’t know her? I can excuse children doing the same since they are not aware of certain norms of the society.

          And I don’t think it’s right for you to make an assumption that – for the lack of a better phrase- “the likes of me” will die to play holi with a film star. I wouldn’t be okay with any man sexualising my body in a perverted way be it Shahrukh Khan or a common man on the street, so please keep your assumptions to yourself.

    • Y the hell would u throw egg nog or other substances on a person. Holi is a celebration of colour and joy. So throw colour only not some crap like starch water, semen, egg nog etc. And if a person does not want to indulge in celebrating holi then dont put it on them. How would you feel if a person would throw egg nog at your mother 20 years from now. Dont blame the victim blame the thrower.

    • How about i do that with someone of your family? How would you react? Bura na maano holi hai? You dumb person, you speak of hinduism and hindu festivals. Just read the guidelines of manu smrity and think logically over it.

  6. I knew it.. the Left will find one or other ruse to attack one more Hindu festival !! Gurmehar Kaur, how steep your fall had been !! some random guys commit non sense and you attack a festival of majority of India celebrates.. ofcourse, some criminal tries to assault wearing a burqa, some criminal tries to escape wearing a burqa .. so, we are justified and can attack entire Islamic way of dressing

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