The Indian Gulabi Gang: India’s pink-sari crusaders

The Indian Gulabi Gang: India’s pink-sari crusaders

The prevailing populace rising up against a mindlessly oppressive institution captures one’s imagination almost immediately and unquestionably in a very dramatic way. The story of how feminist revolt was put into practice in contemporary Bundelkhand begins with women in flowering pink saris who decided to enforce the law on their own. 

Wanting to exact revenge on rural women for the Bundeli woman’s melancholy, the Gulabi Gang was created out of fresh optimism for a more punitive justice system, filling the gaps left by the corrupt and troubled legal system. The Gulabi Gang, founded on a foundation that is as intersectional as it gets, tackles problems affecting Indian women in their pursuit of a more egalitarian system in the countryside. 

The Gulabi Gang functions as a counterpublic, attempting to establish new forms of gendered and sexual citizenship in its goal to make less hostile environments for women to work, live, and lead safe and healthy lives in the current communal structures.

The group arguably traces its roots back to a day in 2006 when Sampat Pal Devi, the creator of the movement, witnessed a husband hitting his wife. She came back the very next day armed with a lathi* and accompanied by five other women, and she gave the rogue a swift beating.  With time and more members, the group of 5 grew into a sisterhood, represented by the pink sari* symbolizing femininity and the quiet power of sisters.

In this world, women control the physical strength typically held by men from the dominant caste and use it to drag them into a legal system that does not hold them accountable for their wrongdoings. Gulabi Gang has been combating such abuse against women for the past 13 years,  employing physical force to bring rapists, molesters, and domestic abusers to justice.

The Gulabi Gang’s greatest chance of recovery lies in a complete transformation of local norms. For meaningful change to occur, retributive justice cannot be relied upon alone; in order for anyone who is not a dominating Hindu male to feel secure, the law must intervene, with effective enforcement and active implementation.

“We feel empowered to fight any crime against women. We don’t fear the police, or any authority, because we fight for the truth.” – Amapat Pal Devi 

*Lathi – a heavy stick often of bamboo bound with iron used in India as a weapon, especially by police

*Sari –  a garment of southern Asian women that consists of several yards of lightweight cloth draped so that one end forms a skirt and the other a head or shoulder covering.


I am Tamanna Nambiar, a 15-year-old from Bangalore, India. Gender inequality is at the very heart of the Indian culture and value system, violence against women continues to be portrayed as a family problem rather than a crime. In India, it manifests as vastly different expectations for young men and women regarding their education, health, career, and overall agency in decisions affecting their future. As a young woman growing up in a society where any suggestion to reform or address inequality is seen as a strike at the very root of its cultural, community, or ethnic ethos, I strive to bring an end to all forms of discrimination against women and girls. But, I realize that this isn’t a problem only in India, Gender equality remains unfinished business in every country regardless of the country's degree of development. Unfortunately, in today's society, it has become the norm to tell women how to dress, how we should act, and how much control we have over our bodies. As I observe the extent of discrimination, it is scary to see the lack of protection of women’s rights in today's world. As a society, we should work together to improve the lives of women, and therefore, I wish to convey a message of equality through the incredible platform that SHEQUALITY has created and help people recognize their power to make a difference in combating this long-standing issue of inequality.