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Gulabi (Pink) Gang -The Indian women vigilantes

When women take things in their hand, it not always peaceful. Once armed with bamboo sticks, trained in self defence and protected by their unity there is no stopping for an oppressed. The members of Gulabi Gang know how to take matters in their hand and do justice in the quickest way possible by delivering the punishment then and there and in the most brutal and shameful way one can imagine.

Photo of Ankit Chhabra
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The Gulabi Gang is an extraordinary women’s movement formed in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi in the Banda District of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. This region is one of the poorest districts in the country and is marked by a deeply patriarchal culture, rigid caste divisions, female illiteracy, domestic violence, child labour, child marraiges and dowry demands. The women’s group is popularly known as Gulabi or ‘Pink’ Gang because the members wear bright pink saris and wield bamboo sticks. Sampat says, “We are not a gang in the usual sense of the term, we are a gang for justice.”

The Gulabi Gang was initially intended to punish oppressive husbands, fathers and brothers, and combat domestic violence and desertion. The members of the gang would accost male offenders and prevail upon them to see reason. The more serious offenders were publicly shamed when they refused to listen or relent. Sometimes the women resorted to their lathis, if the men resorted to use of force.

Today, the Gulabi Gang has tens of thousands of women members, several male supporters and many successful interventions to their credit. Whether it is ensuring proper public distibution of food-grains to people below the poverty line, or disbursement of pension to elderly widows who have no birth certificate to prove their age, or preventing abuse of women and children, the Pink sisterhood is in the forefront, bringing about system changes by adopting the simplest of methods - direct action and confrontation.

Although the group’s interventions are mostly on behalf of women, they are increasingly called upon by men to challenge not only male authority over women, but all human rights abuses inflicted on the weak.

Urgency is the need of the hour but I wonder if violence is the only solution? The awards they have recieved, the media coverage and traction from documentary film makers all applause the bravery and unity of the members of the Gulabi Gang but I wonder if this is a permanent solution? 

Would like to discuss more around it.


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Photo of Yvonne Caples

What's interesting here is that these women are acting as a police force because they can't depend on the actual police who are supposed to protect them from such instances of domestic violence and such. I think that standing up to the violence that has been inflicted upon them is what is most powerful about what they are doing, not necessarily the violence inflicted on the perpetrators.

Photo of Ankit Chhabra

Hi Yvonne, that is the essential quality of being human. You can't be repressed all the time. sooner or later one of you will rise, motivate others, start a revolution, create an inflection and just like that within a short span we on a different course. Its the same everywhere from Renaissance to Arab Spring. The important thing is to identify such movements and pay heed to them before they become out of control.

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