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A Band of Women in Banda Promote Justice

April 2009
A Band of Women in Banda Promote Justice

Bundelkhand, in the dusty plains of northern India, may look like an unexpected place for a “feminist” uprising. But that’s what happened in the Banda district of Uttar Pradesh, where over 500 women came together to actively oppose domestic violence, discrimination and government corruption. Their unlikely leader, Sampat Devi Pal, is apparently no saint and demands total obedience, but her followers have been inspired by her no-nonsense approach. These women have been dubbed the Gulabi Gang because of the distinctive pink saris they all wear.

Here are some of their achievements: got local officials to stop child marriages and register cases against abusive husbands, confronted black marketers and accused rapists, and drew attention to acute power shortages and crop failures. Their success has attracted wide media attention, and with more women joining the Gulabi Gang, the demand for pink saris has shot up.

Come to think of it, a female vigilante group in Bundelkhand doesn’t seem so surprising, because it was this rugged region that gave rise to the late Phoolan Devi, who gained fame and notoriety in India as the Bandit Queen.

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