The Gulabi Gang works for justice, justice for abused and oppressed women. Founded in response to the lack of police support for victims of domestic violence, it focuses on India’s Uttar Pradesh, where nearly half the population faces poverty, lack of education, and many other problems.

The vigilante justice of Gulabi gang

On February 23, 2015, a woman named Janki Devi was set on fire by her husband’s parents for failing to convince a child. Neighbors took her to the hospital, but she died that same night. The case never attracted media attention, and despite her parent’s complaint, the police did nothing.

Unfortunately, Janki Devi was not the only one to suffer, more than 300,000 women suffer various forms of abuse and violence every year. Surprisingly, according to a government survey conducted between 2005 and 2006, 51% of men and 55% of women, justify domestic violence in some form on the basis of these excuses.

What Is Gulabi Gang?

The genesis of the Gulabi gang perfectly explains why Gulabi gang is necessary. In 2002, Sampat Pal Devi, a simple woman living in a village in Uttar Pradesh, India, saw a man mercilessly beat his wife. Sampat Devi asked the man to stop beating his wife, but in response, the man abused her.

Gulabi Gang

But Sampat Devi would not accept the abuse and stay in her house. The next day, she returned with a bamboo stick and five other women and beat the man who attacked her. Afterwards, she did not look back and shortly thereafter founded the Gulabi Gang.

In another incident, when Sampat Devi went to the police station to make a complaint, a policeman abused her and attacked her. Sampat Devi responded by beating the policeman with her lathi(large bamboo stick.

The news that Sampat Devi was beating a man who was abusing her spread like wildfire, and soon women were coming up to her demanding similar results. Sampat Pal Devi founded the Gulabi Gang in 2006, with a group of women from her village, to fight against the injustice that local women face in their daily lives.

Gulabi Gang consists of women between 18 and 60 years of age. The gang is often called the “Gang of Justice.” The gang members wear pink sarees and fight injustice with their lathis(large bamboo sticks. Gulabi Gang was successful in 2006 and 2007 a few months after its founding.

The Gulabi Gang supports and trains women to improve their basic skills so that they become economically secure and develop the confidence to protect themselves from abuse or any kind of violence through sustainable livelihoods.

Who Is Sampat Pal Devi?

Sampat Pal was born in 1958 in the Banda district of Uttar Pradesh, her father was a shepherd. During her early childhood, she tended goats and cattle, but she had compassion for learning. With the help of her brothers who attended school, she taught herself to read and write. When her compassion became apparent, her uncle enrolled her in a school, where she studied until fourth grade before she was taken out of school for her marriage.

When Sampat was just 12 years old, she married a 25-year-old ice-cream salesman. At the age of 15, she gave birth to the first of her five children. She was with the group from the beginning until she was relieved of her role on March 2, 2014, amid allegations of financial impropriety and the primacy of her personal interests over those of the group.

In 2011, the Guardian named Sampat Pal Devi, the founder of the Gulabi Gang, as one of the 10 most influential women in the world.

What does Gulabi Gang do?

The founder of the Gulabi Gang says that it is not a typical gang, but a “gang of justice.” The gang has set up several stations and each station has a leader called “Commander.” The commander is solely responsible for the daily activities and minor problems of the people.

Gulabi Gang self defense

The update protocol and major problems are then sent to the leader of the group. The gang never reported themselves, word of mouth and newspaper articles contributed to the success of the Gulabi Gang. The gang usually operates when the police do nothing – if an abused woman goes to the police and they decide not to act, then the gang takes over. If the gang takes over, they make sure that the problem is solved.

However, there is no discrimination on the basis of gender, the Gulabi Gang also focuses on the oppression of men and human rights.

Their main focus is:

  • Stop child marriage.
  • Encourage women to become financially independent.
  • Awareness of the evils of dowry.
  • Training women in self-defense.
  • Publicly shame monsters.
  • Fight corruption.
  • Register FIRs against sexoffenders and abusive husbands.

Injustice and Gulabi Gang

In 2011, 17-year-old Sheelu Nishad, who had been raped by a gang, was arrested after arriving at the police station because one of the gang members, who was a Member of Parliament, came to the police station in front of Sheelu and wanted to arrest her. Sheelu’s father felt hopeless and decided to approach the Gulabi gang, who then handled the situation through demonstrations in the form of the police station and the parliament building.

“It(lathi) is intended to protect us, but it is also used to threaten and if necessary, to beat up the abusers.”

Sampat Pal dreamed of eradicating illiteracy among young women. In 2008, she founded a school in Banda, the Gulabi Gang Bal Vidyalaya, which has about 400 girls out of 600 students.

Suman Singh, a commander of the Gulabi Gang, believes that if a woman wants to join them, Gulabi Gang means that she has suffered injustice, has been oppressed, and the system has let her down. She believes that all women can stand up to men and, if necessary, seek retribution by turning.

Gulabi Gang Today

Since its founding, the Gulabi Gang has fought all forms of abuse and violence against women. In the meantime, the gang has branches in the neighboring states of Uttar Pradesh – Harayana and Bihar, which are supervised by “commanders” under the leadership of Sampat Pal.

I don’t advocate for violence, but there are times when that is the only way to fight. There are people for whom words and arguments are not enough.

Sampat Devi

The group now has more than 400,000 members in Uttar Pradesh and its neighboring states to help bring perpetrators, rapists and corrupt police officers to justice.

Gulabi Gang has described their vision as “protecting the powerless from abuse and fighting corruption in order to guarantee the fundamental rights of the poor in rural areas and prevent traditions such as child marriage.”

Anyone who joins the Gulabi Gang will be registered, given an ID card and uniform – a pink sari. The new arrivals will receive the Lathi for an annual fee of 500 rupees.

“Society will only change if we eliminate the inherent subordination of the role of women, and this revolution must come from us,” Sampat Devi said.

Now that you’ve read about the Gulabi Gang, read about ‘Nale Ba‘ the Indian Folklore Legend.

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