The year was 2006 in Banda district in Uttar Pradesh (which is found in northern India).
A woman, Sampat Pal Devi saw a man beating up a woman.
She tried to intervene; only to be beaten up as well.
The next day she returned with a bamboo stick and five other women and gave the rogue a sound thrashing.
The news spread like wildfire and soon women started approaching Sampat Pal Devi in droves requesting similar interventions.
Many women came forward to join her team and in the same year 2006 she decided that the sisterhood needed a uniform and a name and thus the pink sari was chosen, to signify the womanhood and understated strength.
This is how the world-famous “Gulabi Gang” came to be!
Photo credit: Asiana Times
You must be wondering why the name “Gulabi Gang”, right?
Well, in Hindu, the word “Gulabi” means “pink” and since this is the official and only colour of this gang of women, the name was made from that.
Photo credit: Cinema Politica
The Gulabi Gang kept a watch on all community activities and protested vociferously when they saw any manifestation of injustice or malpractice.
On one occasion, when Sampat Pal went to the local police station to register a complaint, a policeman abused and attacked her.
She retaliated by beating him on the head with her lathi (a heavy stick often of bamboo bound with iron used in India as a weapon especially by police (as in dispersing a crowd or quelling a riot).
On another occasion she dragged a government official out of his car to show him a crumbling road that needed urgent repair.
After all, what cannot be endured must be cured!
In 2014, the group was estimated to have around 270,000 members (I wonder how many there are now, 10 years later).
To become a member of the Gulabi Gang, women are expected to pay a registration fee of 100 rupees.
Members wear bright pink saris and carry lathis, or wooden sticks, for protection.
When a woman is assisted by the gang, she is expected to join the gang and contribute to the mission of assisting other women!
While men are not permitted to be members of the gang, many male villagers play an active supporting role.
One such example is Jai Prakash Shivhari, who joined to stand in solidarity against issues like government corruption, child marriages, and dowry deaths.
Often, a few male supporters will accompany the gang to gatherings and protests for the safety purposes.
Because many villages predominantly only educate men, male supporters also assist with administrative tasks that require reading, writing, and math skills.
The gang’s initiatives have also been advantageous for many male villagers, who have increasingly requested the group’s assistance in their advocacy campaigns.
For instance, when Banda farmers staged a demonstration to demand compensation for failed crops, they sought the Gulabi Gang’s support.
This collaboration has encouraged more men to openly endorse the gang’s endeavors and be more receptive to the idea of their own female relatives joining the group.
Photo credit: The Plaid Zebra
Additionally, the group uses both non-violent and violent tactics and reports many successful interventions.
They aim to support women in attaining financial autonomy, education, and political empowerment.
Despite facing difficulties with local government bodies, many members of the Gulabi Gang have been elected to office.
The group has also garnered substantial recognition and media attention!
Photo credit: VICE Video
I want you to think about this gang of women, who decided to fend for themselves since the patriarchy failed them deliberately!
Aren’t you inspired?