Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 10:
The vigilante all-women group ‘Gulabi Gang’ would soon have its presence all across the country for the rights of people, said Sampat Pal, leader of the group, during her recent visit to Odisha capital.
“We are having around 2, 70, 000 members active in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Very soon we are going to expand our network to other parts of the country too,” the 50-year-old crusader said.
The rights activist was married at the age of 12 to a resident of Banda district of UP. After her marriage, she came to know that one of her neighbours was being frequently beaten up by her husband. When she was barely 16, she motivated village women to speak out against the domestic violence and teach men a lesson.
They women mob thrashed the man and let him go after apologising for his inhuman behaviour. This ignited the fire in her to fight for the rights of the women in distress and floated a group ‘Gulabi Gang’ in 1980.
“The gang’s mission is to eradicate the social evils and challenge the caste system, empower women and crusade for the rights of the poor. We first try to persuade the oppressive and abusive husbands to change their ways… If they don’t get convinced through counselling then we resort to lathis. I believe lathi can solve all problems,” the firebrand women said.
When asked about males being subjected to torture by women, she replied, “The percentage of men being tortured as compared to women is less. We would look into issues of men also in future.”
The members wear bright pink saris (as Gulabi means pink in Hindi) and carry bamboo sticks, more for intimidation than violence.
A Bollywood movie, Gulaab Gang, starring Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla and Mahie Gill in lead roles hit the theatres almost two years back. The film was entangled in legal hassles after Sampat Pal dragged the filmmaker Anubhav Sinha to court. However, Sinha clarified that the celluloid was not based any real-life character. He was quoted as saying: “Also, for the record, Gulaab Gang is fiction. Not based on anyone’s life, loosely or tightly. So please.”
Sampat Pal moved court to stop the release of the film, alleging that it is based on her life and a portion of the movie shows her in bad light. Later, the Delhi High Court cleared the release of the Hindi movie.
“I was unhappy with the movie Gulab Gang as it had objectionable content. They depicted violence in the movie and the members were using weapons whereas we use only lathis. Moreover, the movie was made without my permission,” Pal argued.
Explaining why she opted for pink which is synonymous to their group, she said, almost all colours are associated with political parties. Pink was not linked to any party then and we wanted to raise ourselves above politics.
Notably, she had unsuccessfully contested from the Manikpur constituency in Chitrakoot district in the 2012 UP assembly polls.