The fact that you have the ‘freedom to find a story and share it’ is a very powerful feeling. Gulabi Gang started with 5 members and currently has a strength of more than 2,50,000 women. The movement started in the Bundelkhand region, one of the poorest districts in Uttar Pradesh and has spread across the whole of North India. I am fascinated by how this woman is activating so many women in rural India. Sampat Pal was a victim herself, she was frustrated waiting for justice and decided to take matters in her own hands. She took her anger and activated it towards her victim with the simple logic of collective strength.
Alka Bala is a Gulabi Gang member, she is a Dalit which means she belongs to the lowest caste and being a woman makes it worse. Rural India breeds women differently, she kept staring at my sleeveless dress, “If you wear this in our village, you will be kidnapped in your sleep”. These women are rustic, they express disapproval, shame, hate very differently – to a point where it makes us urban women uncomfortable. In most cases, they have never made a choice for themselves except probably dying. They might judge us but it’s not their fault, they rarely encounter a free spirited woman.
Alka’s 15 year old daughter was kidnapped and raped by the men of the upper caste, judicial apathy and lack of police support to chase the culprits led Alka to fight for justice. Women in rural India have no support, an act of smearing abusive men with chilli powder is also considered to be very dramatic. The first step was to request the police to take charge that failed, this was followed by “shaming rituals” in which, women from the gang demonstrate outside the homes of the offenders. Alka was scared but when 500 women face each others fears as a group the equation changes.
The Gang has several stations set-ups and each station has a section head, who handles daily activities and smaller problems on her own. Members are trained in techniques of counter-aggression and self defence. Women wear uniform pink saris symbolizing strength and carry bamboo sticks that can be used as weapons if needed.
The recent Bangalore molestation case was madness because they attacked us in groups when we least expected it. Here is an important lesson for us in urban India, this isn’t about thrashing men. Women by nature deal with crisis better as a group, they are inherently more comfortable with sticking with their tribe. If a group of women in rural India with no support from family or society can be bold enough to grab the culprit, then why cant we.