The Gulabi gang was founded by Sampat Pal Devi, a mother of five and former government health worker (as well as a former child bride), as a response to widespread domestic abuse and other violence against women. Gulabis visit abusive husbands and threaten to beat them with laathis (sticks) unless they stop abusing their wives.
In 2008, they stormed an electricity office in Banda district and forced officials to turn back on the power they had cut in order to extract bribes. They have also stopped child marriages and protested dowry and female illiteracy.
The group, which the Indian media portray positively, are reported to have an estimated 400,000 members as of 2014, as well as a chapter in Paris, France.
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 marriages 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 distribution 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.
Four years ago, British filmmaker Kim Longinotto had made a feature length documentary titled Pink Saris.
The film followed Sampat Pal Devi, the leader of the band of pink sari-clad women in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh, and through her, had brought out Pal’s unique fight for women’s rights.
The film had won quite a few international awards, and a lot of critical acclaim. Sampat Pal is a compelling subject – brash, foul-mouthed, upfront, no-nonsense. And someone who has raised a battalion of civilian women to fight for the rights of the likes of themselves in a society that is appallingly patriarchal.
No wonder, one film cannot do justice to the character that is Sampat Pal, who became a household name thanks to her appearance in the 2012 season of reality show Big Boss.
~The Documentary – Official Theatrical Trailer~
~~Published on Feb 3, 2014~~
Sohum Shah presents Nishtha Jain’s multiple award winning documentary Gulabi Gang. The film is being theatrically released in India by PVR Director’s Rare on 21st February, 2014.