The SUNDAY INTERVIEW Magazine

Rebel in pink

From starting a movement in the house to establishing her identity as a “human being and not someone’s wife”, Sampat Pal Devi, founder of Gulabi Gang, now travels globally, propagating her idea of vigilante woman rights. Her group-in-pink — which uses force to deal with a patriarchal society — can be used to deal with issues of ‘moral policing’, she tells journalists in an interaction in Mangalore. Here are excerpts:

How popular is the movement now? Is the movement serving its purpose?

More than four lakh women have joined Gulabi Gang in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. We have been getting requests to start in various other places. When I came to Bidar (North Karnataka) in January, I was requested to start a unit there. If people support me, then I can.

Before we started the gang (in 2006), there were more than 10 cases of atrocities against women daily in Bundelkhand. After the gang was formed, women have started to stand up for their rights.

With numbers like that, how do you ensure control? Or is not used for political gain?

Every district has a commander, and a clear chain of command. We get information if members have gone astray. Already, we have removed four commanders, including one who was using my name to collect money from people.

Where there are people, there is politics. Even though I stood on a Congress ticket in 2012, the gang is independent of political affiliations…I want to go to Parliament and tell them what is happening in the country. We need good people in politics.

How do you justify vigilantism, when a legal procedure is prescribed by the Constitution?

The right laws are in place, but its implementation is lacking. If one has to get justice under the law, you have to have money and be ready to go between offices and courts for years. We teach erring men a lesson, and even then if they do not heed, we produce them to the police.

Those who use violence against inter-faith couples here also believe they are doing it for societal ‘good’. What difference is there then between your ideology and theirs?

Of 100 cases we get, only three may be genuine. We research the cases, talk to the family, neighbours and only then take action in cases of domestic violence or dowry. We do not use force in inter-religious matters. In fact, we attempt to bring the families together to sort things out. If moral policing is a big problem here, then a Gulabi Gang should be formed here to go after those who beat up couples.

Over the past few weeks, there have been a series of incidents of sexual assaults reported in the State. What is your take on it?

There is a need for social change. We cannot blame the government, as they can only take action after the incident. It is society that causes the incident to take place in the first place.

You have objected to Gulaab Gang, the movie based on your life. Could you elaborate why?

I objected because they did not take my permission. There is too much masala in the story. I demanded three changes in the movie: to replace guns in the movie — for we only use sticks; the name Lajjo (the lead character) should be changed to Sampat — as her story mirrors mine; and if they can’t do the above, then they should change the sari colour in the movie and disassociate from Gulabi Gang.


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Printable version | Jan 15, 2022 5:52:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/interview-of-sampat-pal-devi-of-gulabi-gang/article6407644.ece

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