Gulabi Gang: An Extraordinary Women’s Movement

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Updated On: 27 Jul 2023

Gulabi Gang: An Extraordinary Women’s Movement

In a nation that often appeared in the news for abuse and assault on women, meet ‘Gulabi Gang,’ an all-women’s group dedicated to fighting for justice. This gang was formed in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi, a woman from the Banda district of Uttar Pradesh.

The vigilante gang was formed as a collective response to the lack of support and injustice suffered by the people residing in the impoverished region of Bundelkhand, which falls under the list of the poorest districts of India.

The Emergence of the ‘Gulabi Gang’

Hailing from the impoverished region called Banda, the poorest district of Uttar Pradesh, and also the region of strong-willed women such as Jhansi Rani Laxmibai and Phoolan Devi, Sampat Pal Devi was inspired to form the Gulabi Gang in 2006 as an all-women’s vigilante group assembled to fight against the real-life villains wielding a stick (Lathis) when police and justice failed to provide the required support for the women of Banda district. 

People in the Banda district considered women and the girl-child as a burden to the whole community. As the people from this district belonged to lower-class families, education, and other important facilities were not an option for these ladies, except for the continuous assault and domestic violence. 

The first emergence of this gang came into existence when 5 women including Sampat Pal Devi were found giving a sound thrashing with Lathis to a man after she voiced out her pleas when she witnessed a man mercilessly beating his wife but instead got beaten by the man himself. 

She single-handedly decided to help the women of her community for a better future for the upcoming generations.

The Motto of the ‘Gulabi Gang’

The main point of attention of this gang is to ensure safety and provide support to most if not all, women coming from poor families in  India. 

They emphasize basic rights regarding women and girl-children and put an end to child marriages in rural areas, regardless of caste or religion. They fight with  abusers and rapists with lathis, showcasing the power these sticks hold when used righteously.

What do the Members of the Gulabi Gang do?

People who do not know the Gulabi Gang or haven’t seen the documentary or  the movie named the same might consider them a bunch of justice fighters. But that is not all there is to this group of people; they are driven by a  strong sense of justice. 

Yes, the main concept is protecting the powerless from the atrocities they faced or are facing, but these ladies with pink sarees and sticks also provide training to women to boost their basic skills in various fields to make them financially stable and economically independent.

Along with improving their self-esteem and confidence level, they also provide jobs through self-help groups instead of government organizations like selling groceries, sewing clothes, handicrafts, and commodity marketing. These women even provide facilities for a whole wedding in the community, such as bridal make-up, dressing, flower arrangements, catering services, henna application, and more.

Members, Partners, and Power of Gulabi Gang

With Sampat Pal Devi as the founder and leader, Gulabi Gang was officially formed in 2006. These pink-saree social crusaders fight against crimes and all kinds of malpractices against women, wearing pink sarees as their uniforms to symbolize the feminine strength and togetherness between the members. 

As the gang says, “After all, what cannot be endured must be cured,” these members thrive for gender equality and nondiscrimination. 

The author of  ‘Pink Saree Revolution,’ a book based on the revolutionary act by the women (Gulabi Gang) of the badlands of Uttar Pradesh, Amana Fontella Khan, says that because of Devi’s boldness and goal to empower women while offering protection to the powerless and protests, she was successful in paving the way for justice the in Bundelkhand region. “The ‘Gulabi Gang’ has stepped into the vacuum left by the government and offers alternative means of attaining justice,” she further adds. 

Suman Singh, the deputy commander of the gang, proudly boasts by saying that any woman of our gang can stand up against any man and, if needed, seek retribution through lathis. 

They have partnered with Vitalect, an e-learning non-profit organization that delivers its services with its expertise and technology in areas such as web development, design, hosting, and ongoing maintenance. Adivasi Mahila Utthan is the other partner of this gang, whose aim is to create an infrastructure for handling all operations and programs of the Gulabi Gang. 

Problems Tackled by the Gulabi Gang

In the year 2007, the group filed a complaint to the local authorities against the people practicing malpractice by delivering the grains and food of the fair-price shops run by the government to the open markets in an illegal way, creating a shortage of food for the villagers in the community. 

In the same year, when a Dalit woman was raped by a man of a higher class, the gang broke into the police station, demanding to set the protesters free and to register a complaint against the man. But when refused to do so, the women resorted to violence and assaulted the officers physically. This became the benchmark for this gang, opting for physical violence if needed to make the point clear.

In 2008 they stormed into an electricity office, forcing them to switch it on. They were extracting bribes from people by cutting the electric supply in the Banda district. They stopped a few child marriages and the dowry system in rural areas and even protested against female illiteracy as Sampat Pal Devi was an enthusiastic learner back in her childhood days and she supports female education greatly. 

Sheelu Nishad, the victim of gang rape was given justice by this gang. The 17-year-old girl was arrested instead of taken in for a report by the police officers.  The gang assisted with the help of mass demonstrations when the victim’s father approached for help. Two demonstrations were held in front of the police station and another in front of the Legislator’s house who was also involved in this case. This incident happened in the year 2011.

“Yes, we fight the rapists with lathis (large sticks made out of wood or bamboo) and thrash him mercilessly until he is black and blue.” Says Sampat Pal Devi loud and clear in one of her interviews.

Achievements and Awards Won for their Bravery and Excellence

The Gulabi Gang has won various awards for its bravery and acts of justice. Some of these awards include:

  • Godfrey Phillips Bravery Awards for their efforts against crimes such as drug abuse, dowry, corruption, child labor, illiteracy, and environmental pollution in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Uttarakhand.
  • The Kelvinator 11th GR8! Women Awards are offered by the Indian Television Academy for their contribution and excellence in their field of work.
  • Nari Shakti Samman by the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India in the year 2010
  • Ahilyabai Holkar Award for their achievements in public sector organizations promoting the welfare and wellness of women in the year 2014
  • Bharat Jyoti Award for their outstanding, distinguished services and wellness to the nation.
  • Sevri Samman Award

Book, Documentary, and Movie Based on Gulabi Gang 

Not only did they receive awards,  but the emotive, success story of the Gulabi Gang, which spread worldwide, caught the eye of a journalist, Amana Fontella Khan, whose main focus is Women Empowerment. 

She wrote a descriptive book called “Pink Saree Revolution: A Tale of Women and Power in India” that provides descriptionS and in-depth details of the incidents, achievements, growth, and evolution of these women from the Banda district.

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Impressed by the members of the Gulabi Gang, Filmmaker Nishita Jain, trailed behind the group for five months shooting and reviewing the deeds of this gang.  Jain decided to exploit the story of the fiery woman and activist Sampat Pal Devi, an inspirational icon to women all over the world, through the documentary “The Gulabi Gang” in 2012. 

This documentary won the National Film Award for Best Film on Other Social Issues in 2014. It is also the main subject and theme of the movie ‘Pink Saris’ by Kim Longinotto.

The true story of these women was adopted in the form of a movie acted out by Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla, showing the struggles and protests of the women of the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh.

Message to Women All Around the World 

Even though there are many unnoticed women across the nation suffering through torments and abuse, Gulabi Gang serves as a strong pillar for all those endurers and powerless women to stand up for themselves and fight back for what is right. 

Instead of blaming their bad luck or their destiny, with courage, strong will, and unity, an oppressor can be successfully defeated. This is what anyone can learn from the social icon “Gulabi Gang.” As the Indian slogan goes “Ek Naari sab pe Bhaari,” a strong-willed woman can never be oppressed by a man.  

Soundarya Kamat

Soundarya Kamat is an inquisitive individual with a deep passion for the formation of names and an expertise in freestyle writing. Her relentless curiosity drives her to research and explore the intricacies behind the origins and meanings of names, unraveling the stories they hold. Holding a certifi... Read More

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What is the story of the Gulabi Gang?

Gulabi Gang is a self-formed vigilante gang founded and led by Sampath Pal Devi in the year 2006 when she found her neighbor beating his wife and proceeded to thrash him with lathis the next day. Gulabi Gang is from the Banda district of Uttar Pradesh.

Who is the leader of the Gulabi Gang?

Sampat Pal Devi is the founder and leader of the Gulabi Gang.

Is the gang still active nowadays?

The group, although founded in 2006, started spreading across the country in 2010. The group is still active in the northern parts of India doing marches and providing occupations to women.

Is Gulabi Gang a documentary?

Yes, Gulabi Gang is a documentary written and filmed by Nishita Jain and produced by Torstein Grude in 2012 under Piraya Films.

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