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Angry in pink
March 15, 2008 8:57 AM   Subscribe

It started in 2006 as a small group of women angry at corrupt officials in the Banda district, Uttar Pradesh (the Indian state that brought you Phoolan Devi). Led by a former tea vendor, Sampat Devi Pal (badass, Magnificent 7-like picture here), the Gulabi gang counts now hundreds of women, dressed in fluorescent pink and ready to use their lathi to fight corruption, domestic violence, child marriage and the many other ills that affect their society.
posted by elgilito (38 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is awesome, and I'm not going to condemn these women—I'm sure it's for the greater good, and all. But still, this sounds eerily and unsettlingly familiar:

But we are not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We are a gang for justice.
posted by lostburner at 9:15 AM on March 15, 2008


That's right, I said it. Eerie AND unsettling. Both.
posted by lostburner at 9:18 AM on March 15, 2008


Not going to condemn these women, lostburner? Fuck, man, we should be so lucky. We should sit down and take notes.
posted by limon at 9:20 AM on March 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is pretty much the best thing ever.
posted by Tullius at 9:26 AM on March 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Good concept, but how exactly do they determine guilt before whacking the shit out of people they deem have committed wrong? Do the people with all the bruises have a right to appeal?

What makes this different from any other vigilante gang? The fact that it is women? Or the fact that they only beat men?

Dodgy ground. It's a vigilante gang in every sense of the word. Yes, they may be uprising against a corrupt system, but surely society tries to tell us that taking the law into our own hands is 'bad'. Yet, as soon as it is a bunch of women in pink, it's to be lauded?

Sexism is still rife in journalism and idealism, I see.
posted by Brockles at 9:41 AM on March 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


That picture is indeed bad-ass.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:41 AM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like it. Finally, grrl power I can get behind! It would be especially cool if they paid for the saris with the proceeds of a bake sale. (But don't come knocking at my door when we start to hear reports that they're demanding fees for their protection services or selling contraband to pay 'for new robes and sticks.')
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:50 AM on March 15, 2008


Things would have to be pretty bad before this seems like a good idea.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:50 AM on March 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


This post exemplifies everything that is great about MetaFilter. Thank you.
posted by desjardins at 9:54 AM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, guys, couldn't they just start a blog or write a letter to their congressman?
posted by limon at 9:57 AM on March 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's not easy being pink.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:04 AM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is a abhorrent lack of legal protection for women in India, Nepal and other 3rd world countries. It is common for a girl who is raped to be sent to prison while the rapist has no charges filed against him. I'm not saying that a gang with sticks is the best solution, but these women live in an exceptionally hostile environment.
posted by janetplanet at 10:06 AM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


"In a related story, petty crime is down 20% while vicious sack beatings are up 900%"
posted by Space Coyote at 10:12 AM on March 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree with some of the vigilante sentiments, but what happens when the society is corrupted? What if your society deems you less than human and will not even acknowledge your existence, let alone hear your plea?

Like mentioned above, are these women expected to write to their "congress people" to achieve justice?

How much injustice was enough to justify the American Revolution?
posted by dozo at 10:28 AM on March 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


Dodgy ground. It's a vigilante gang in every sense of the word. Yes, they may be uprising against a corrupt system, but surely society tries to tell us that taking the law into our own hands is 'bad'.

These women do not live in a liberal democracy like some of us do. When the law itself is corrupt, people have little recourse, other than taking up arms to defend themselves when need be. When the law is based on some essentially primordial practice like the caste system, the members of the "lower" unprotected classes will have to do something to keep themselves and their families safe from harm.
posted by jdotglenn at 10:45 AM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree with some of the vigilante sentiments, but what happens when the society is corrupted?

The problem is exactly that their society is corrupt. Men abuse women, the women form gangs to exact violent revenge on men, and the remaining men conclude that they need to do a better job oppressing the women next time. The cycle repeats.

At some level, it is nice to see the abused get some revenge, but they are just continuing the cycle of violence and abuse. Life will not be any better for their children, and may be worse. This type of behavior has probably been going on for thousands of years. What we are seeing here is a continuation of violence, not an end to it.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:57 AM on March 15, 2008


These women do not live in a liberal democracy like some of us do.

Um, India IS a liberal democracy, and far more multicultural than the U.S. It has some serious blind spots, and the treatment of women is at the top of the list, but let's be careful about sweeping statements.

Actually, there's a movie about this kind of gang in America, too, with a slight twist, and it didn't turn out that well. (the movie, that is)
posted by msalt at 11:20 AM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


How much injustice was enough to justify the American Revolution?

This is a pretty bad example. The British hadn't done anything we would consider revolution-worthy today. Certainly the present United States government commits injustices far more egregious every single day.
posted by nasreddin at 11:24 AM on March 15, 2008


India, man. It never lets up with the awesome. They should replace their corrupt officials with upstanding officials such as Adolf Lu Hitler-Marak, Frankenstein Momin and Hilarious Pochen.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:39 AM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Um, India IS a liberal democracy, and far more multicultural than the U.S. It has some serious blind spots, and the treatment of women is at the top of the list, but let's be careful about sweeping statements.

I didn't mean that India does not have a liberal democratic-style of government, I meant that it seems as if the government in a few areas are not doing their job, the job of protect all Indian citizens' rights and safety. However, since every single one of the other modern liberal democracies have been in the same spot, I was wrong to word it that way. I feel totally crunchy.
posted by jdotglenn at 11:41 AM on March 15, 2008


Some of the comments remind me of Solzhenitsyn when he described the systematic murder of informers in the Gulags, and anticipated a similar reaction.

Will there ever be an end to it? I hear you cry. Perhaps not, but without it, there would have never been a beginning.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:38 PM on March 15, 2008


Though the `gang' members preferred to use their sandals and `chappals' for bringing the corrupt employees to task

Indian cultural explanation: about the greatest way to shame somebody is to take your footwear off (and as far as I understand, chappals = sandals) and wave them in the person's face. That's some serious shit.

Stronger shaming would be to atually hit them with your chappal, and I understand the worst of the lot is to string up your chappals over their front door.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:44 PM on March 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


oh, i am forgetting garland of chappals hung around neck of miscreant.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:55 PM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


If only ThePinkSuperhero had posted this.
posted by IronLizard at 12:55 PM on March 15, 2008


I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but WE don't live in a liberal democracy either. The ideal was that there would be the rule of law over all, and the law would deliver justice equally via due process, and that's what makes it bad to use force to resolve your grievances. But the truth is that due process only operates between equals, and Americans are far from equal. There is very little due process to be found in this country, and as social inequalities reach a global-warming style tipping point, there's less of it to be found every day.

Among HMOs, car dealers, rapists, Congress, and any number of other examples left as an exercise for the reader, those in power are increasingly unwilling to put themselves on a level playing field with those who aren't, and increasingly able to avoid doing so.

And in the absence of due process, all that remains is unsanctioned action. Vigilante action, in other words, whether it's violent or not. If anyone tries to tell you that violence never solved anything, hit them. The bitter truth is that no problem anywhere was ever solved except by violence because violence is the ultimate arbitration. If an issue could be solved before reaching that stage, then it wasn't really a problem so much as a failure on somebody's part to recognize their own best interest.
posted by Naberius at 1:46 PM on March 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


but WE don't live in a liberal democracy either. The ideal was that there would be the rule of law over all, and the law would deliver justice equally via due process

The logical extension of this argument is that there as never existed in the history of the world a liberal democracy given that no system has ever been perfect enough to deliver justice equally.
posted by Justinian at 2:06 PM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll give you that. Which is why there's always been a need for violence alongside the mechanisms of the law, and a bit of dynamic tension between the two as they try to work it out.
posted by Naberius at 2:24 PM on March 15, 2008


Awesome post! Jai Sampat Pal Devi!!! *raises fist in solidarity! Right on sisters!
posted by nickyskye at 2:30 PM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


But the truth is that due process only operates between equals,

I agree, but without some inequality in the system, there is no point in due process. The participants in the legal system, ie plaintiff, defendant, victim, witnesses, etc must be equal before the law, but the law must be above them; it must be possible to compel attendance, to compel (up to a point) participation, and to compel obedience to the outcome.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:36 PM on March 15, 2008


The logical extension of this argument is that there as never existed in the history of the world a liberal democracy given that no system has ever been perfect enough to deliver justice equally.

I wouldn't say never. Wasn't it Norway that Michael Moore visited for the segment he left out of Sicko because nobody would believe it?
posted by localroger at 4:06 PM on March 15, 2008


Caste Pink?
posted by Rhaomi at 4:15 PM on March 15, 2008


Stronger shaming would be to atually hit them with your chappal

Ah yes, like in this famous scene from Disco Dancer where Sam's groupies attempt to sabotage Jimmy's debut by throwing shoes at him.
posted by pravit at 7:15 PM on March 15, 2008


Marvelous post.

Some things are worth fighting for.
posted by emd3737 at 7:44 PM on March 15, 2008


From the first link:

The gang is led an illiterate woman, Sampat Devi Pal...In fact...Sampat Pal served as the secretary of a NGO, Adivasi Mahila Uthhan Samiti ( Tribal Women Development Society ), based in Bichanda, a remote village in the district.

Huh? An illiterate secretary...is a bit of an oxymoron isn't it?
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 8:03 PM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


(((PINK POWER)))
posted by hadjiboy at 9:11 PM on March 15, 2008


What if your society deems you less than human and will not even acknowledge your existence, let alone hear your plea?

Pardon me, but the real problem here is that over 20% of the people in that district are in the lowest caste. In other words their religion puts them in this position. The sane non-violent thing to do is en masse covert to buddhism or christianisty, which is pretty common. Many people have followed the path B.R. Ambedkar blazed in the 50s with the Dalit Buddhism Movement.

The stupid thing to do is start handing out beating which only treats the symptoms of the hindu caste system. Ironically, these women are empowering Hinduism and the caste system by refusing to leave it, all the while it continue to oppress them.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:36 PM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sampat, a mother of five who was married at nine, has become a local celebrity.

I had to read that twice. Married at nine?! Am I right in assuming that the marriage ceremony was a formality and wasn't consummated for years? Even so, I'm thinking I would be looking for a big stick to hit someone with if they married me off to a stranger at nine years old, too.
posted by misha at 9:53 AM on March 16, 2008


The BBC says she "was married off when she was nine in a region where child marriages are common. At 12, she went to live with her husband and at 13 she had her first child. "

Looking for that fact, I found this charming description of the Banda area where the gang operates: "a region where power and pelf literally flowed from the barrel of the gun".
posted by msalt at 11:21 AM on March 16, 2008


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