Impressed about the way they brought about a change in the society, despite coming the most backward community, the Dalit, which comprises of the majority population, in the region of Banda District of Uttar Pradesh. It’s needless to say that Dalit women are at the bottom most in both caste and gender hierarchies who are subject to discrimination by people from higher castes in the district.  It is basically a vigilante group with its unofficial Head Quarters at Badausa, in Banda District. This was formed by women, for women and to women, to stop the widespread domestic violence, dowry deaths, other crimes against women, child marriages and child labour. The age of the members in this group varies from 18 years to 60 years. Now they are active across North India, both on the street and local politics platform. This name “THE GULABI GANG OR THE PINK GANG, stuck to the gang because they are always seen clad in shocking pink saree with lathis in their hands.

Founded in the year 2006 by Data Satbodh Sain, commanded by Smt sampat Pal Devi, from lack of support from the police force for victims of Domestic Violence as most of them come from lower caste. This gang focuses on upliftment of India’s most impoverished region as most of its population were facing poverty, lack of education, Government Corruption, they had to find a solution to their very sustenance. They sought to achieve solution by creating employment, more agricultural workers to work on the fields, self-help groups, selling vegetables, sewing and trading other commodities. By 2010 there were more than 4 lakh women as members and now the number has doubled.

This brought self-belief in them, the way they sort out other social crimes like domestic violence, when sampat pal devi, saw a man hitting his wife on the road she tried to stop him but in the process she too got beaten up by him. Their Modus Operandi is, there will be stations in all the areas, there will be station head too. Routine, small issues will be handled by them, for which the reporting would be done on a regular basis. But when a domestic violence, rape cases get reported they will immediately pass on the information to the Head Quarters. Once let known, they will approach the police station, when no further action takes place it’s when they decide to take law and order into their own hands and the gang takes over from there. They don’t discriminate based on the gender because the gang not only focuses on male jurisdiction, but also on human rights and male oppression. They do have male members in the gang and when the men asked them to support their local activism regarding farming they gave their unstinted support. They also involve in community support by providing food and grains distribution in the rural areas, pension to widows, who don’t have anyone to support them at old age, prevent the abuse of Women and Children. To this effect they taught women, self-defence, how to be economically self-sufficient, stopped child marriages, female illiteracy.

Some of the highlighting incidents led by Sampat Pal ji, in the year 2007 the gang noticed the irregularities in the fair price shops in distribution of essentials in disguise or undercover caught the culprits red handed as the goods were sold in other places, asked the local authorities to give back the goods to the fair price shops, but the local authorities never heeded. But their protest was notably recognised. In the year 2007, a Dalit girl was raped by a man from higher caste, the incident went unreported. When the girl’s parents went to complain they were arrested. The gang took the matter and asked the police to release the affected people and arrest the crime doers. When the policemen refused to make a case they resorted to violence and physically attacked them. In the year 2008, they stormed into electricity office in Banda district when they had forcibly cut the power to get bribed from the locals, but the gang ensured that the officials turned the power on. In the year 2011, when a 17-year girl was gang raped, the girl was arrested on the complaint given by a MLA who was one of the rapists because he arrived at the police station first. The girl’s parents approached the Gulabi Gang who in turn organised two mass demonstrations one in front of the police station and the other in front of the legislator’s house. It’s not always they resorted to violence there were instances when their protests have been in silent marches too.

Sampat pal devi said they fight the rapists with lathis, when they get hold of the rapists in person they thrash them black and blue so that they would not dare to attempt to do wrong to any girl or a woman again. In the year 2014 Sampat pal devi was relieved from her role as commander and head of the Gulabi Gang amid allegations of financial impropriety and for placing personal interest over interest of the group. Now the commander is Suman Singh who said that if a woman approached to become a member of this gang it is because she has suffered injustice, oppressed and does not have any recourse. With a parting shot “All our women can stand up to the men and if need be, seek retribution through lathis”. If women decide to stop the crime on, women and children, unjust treatment, they are UNSTOPPABLE, for this GULABI GANG OR THE PINK GANG is an outstanding, existing and performing example. Kudos to the gang.

-Vijayashree Ramesh

The writer is an advocate based at Chennai.