In the early days, when she had picked up the cudgels (in a literal sense) against domestic abuse in Banda, Sampat Pal says that there were barely 50 women who came forward to be a part of the pink revolution that she had initiated. Exasperated over the repeated complaints of domestic abuse coming from a young woman in her neighbourhood, Sampat decided that the only way to stem the problem is to subject the accused to public humiliation. It worked, and so started the Gulabi Gang — a collective of women in pink saris that would yield the stick on any man who raises a hand on a woman.
Pal will fight the elections this year on a Congress ticket from Banda. She had fought the election as an independent in 2007, and on a Congress ticket in 2012, but she lost out to a candidate from the Samajwadi Party then.
“Today, the Gulabi Gang has grown from a handful of 50 women to 4 lakh women. And, if I win, this social movement will gain some legal authority. The power that I have now, will then gain legal sanction,” says Pal over the phone after a long day of rallies and shows.
The Congress’s electoral ally in UP, the Samajwadi Party, is notorious for its misogynist ethic. SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav had previously said that “Boys will be boys”, while opposing capital punishment for rape.
“All political parties have someone who speaks in such a manner; we cannot help it. But, Rahul bhaiya and Priyanka didi do not carry any such daag. It is only they who can take Uttar Pradesh in the path to progress,” she says.
Pal says that fighting domestic violence will be one of her main concerns, if she wins the elections. “In most cases, money is exchanged and the accused goes scot-free. Young girls are left to make the rounds of courts. Only a woman can understand these concerns,” she asserts. Apart from that, the other issues she will take up are poverty, justice and unemployment, she says.
Pal’s journey has not been one without controversies. When she went to reality TV show BiggBoss in 2012, it angered a fraction of the Gang, and she was ousted. Pal, however, rubbishes it. “That is the farzi (fake) Gulabi Gang. Some of these women had decided to turn this into a business, but it did not work. Gulabi Gang is alive and thriving, and I am right in the middle of it,” she says.