‘Quest for Justice – Vigilantes in Pink’


“In the time of articulating the story ‘Vigilantes in Pink’ I apprehend that Woman has the supreme power of the supreme Being. She can be the one who eliminates sufferings; she symbolizes her mastery over all qualities which society never admitted characteristically. In their sadistic world – Gulabi gang never lost their hope, fighting against the injustice they are cleaning themselves a bit. Yes, I learn from them, each day we will not get a chance to save somebody’s life, but each day of our lives offers us an opportunity to affect one”

– GMB Akash

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“My real strength is not in the stick, it is in my capacity my goddess gave me to give lessons to those abusive men” – Malti, from gulabi gang

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Dressed in poignant pink saris, the all-female gang shames abusive husbands and corrupt officials.The several hundred vigilante women of India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state’s Banda area proudly call themselves the “gulabi gang” (pink gang), striking fear in the hearts of wrongdoers and earning the grudging respect of officials. Fed up with abusive husbands and corrupt officials, India’s poorest women are banding together, taking up arms, and fighting back. Their quest for justice is actually working. “Pink Gang” fights for the rights of women and other marginalized people in rural India.

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Banda is one of the poorest parts of one of India’s most populous states. It is among the poorest 200 districts in India. Over 20% of its 1.6 million people living in 600 villages are lower castes or untouchables. Drought has parched its already arid, single-crop lands. To make matters worse, women bear the brunt of poverty and discrimination in Banda’s highly caste-ridden, feudalistic and male dominated society. Dowry demands and domestic and sexual violence are common.

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Sampat Pal Devi who was married off when she was nine, wife of an ice cream vendor, mother of five children, and a former government health worker who set up and leads the “pink gang”. She utters,

“We are a gang for justice.”

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Everyday many cases come to the gang from the village and villages from nearby. A mother brings in her weeping daughter who has been thrown out by her husband demanding 10,000 rupees from her parents. Sampat Devi tells her “gang” that they will soon march to the girl’s in law house and demand an explanation from the husband. “If they don’t take her back and keep her well, we will resort to other measures”. The pink sorority is not exactly a group of male-bashing feminists – they claim they have returned 11 girls who were thrown out of their homes to their spouses. They are against injustice just not against males.

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Even Pal’s group gained dishonor in early days for beating up men who abused their wives. If they heard a husband was being violent, they would show up at his door with sticks – the same wielded by local cops when patrolling their beat—and demand he change his ways. Of the many cases that Pal handles every day, the majority are related to domestic violence, dowry demands, and abusive in-laws.

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At first it was just five women, all old friends. But in a span of five years, the group has grown into a powerful brigade of more than 40,000 women, including 10 district commanders, who run the gang’s outposts across the district of Bundelkhand—an area that spans 36,000 square miles. These local Pink Gang stations operate in the same way as Pal’s own home does: They are meeting places for women to discuss their problems and, like Pal’s own home, the doors are always open.

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” Gulabi Gang proves that unity can be an answer to protest against the wrong stream. Why should we live our lives in constant fear of failure? While we can throw out all nonsense of our life alone! We ought to win the losing battle of life by fatal struggle. It’s not fair only to live in the line of survival. Surely we have got to make something more well than what we have got.” – GMB Akash

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24 thoughts on “‘Quest for Justice – Vigilantes in Pink’

  1. Thank you for your powerful work
    Opening my eyes on the struggle of others.
    Thank you for presenting it in the poetic a3939613887nd
    Positiv light.

    • Friend Nadia: Surely we have got to make something more well than what we have got. It’s not reasonable only to live in the line of survival. We ought to win the losing battle of life by fatal struggle.

    • Brenda@ I believe we can’t create anything remarkable from a comfort zone. You have to work from a place of fear and failure.Thanks for connecting yourself with this piece. Light and courage to you

  2. What an amazing story Akash! These women are not only bringing about change in their own lives, but in the lives of future generations of girls and young women to come. They are so inspiring, and it all started with one woman who said “enough!”. She is the living proof that one person can make a difference.
    As incredible as their story is, it wouldn’t be nearly so amazing without your stunning images. You have not only captured their camaraderie and ability…. but through those making direct eye contact with your camera, you have shown us their inner strength and purpose. Thank you for sharing their story.

    • Yes, Jilly these women bring changes by themselves. They prove that living with dignity is not a rare thing. I have seen how much spirit they have for their sisterhood. They will not let suffer any next generation silently. They asked the world to wake up & see what they have done alone. Heartfelt thanks for connecting yourself with this piece. Your presence in my blog zone is a gift of appreciation.

  3. Yet again you blow my mind with your photojournalist abilities, I am in awe of the opportunity you had and were able to capture. Thanks to you, many of us are able to see something that not many would have been able to have known. I would love to know your secret of getting these opportunities.

    • Dear mate, I like the simplicity of my life, and I’ve chosen the kind of life I really want to live. I am in an endless journey towards an infinite route, only to find a real world of humanity. This thirst is eternal. I will keep walking, touching every face I drop through my lens. I will show the world – those unknown stories of sufferings. If a single hand comes to give them a shade that is the real honor of my sweat.

  4. What a beautiful photo-essay… And THANKS SO VERY MUCH again, for highlighting a cause/issue that I had absolutely no idea existed — not the abuse, but this group of women fighting it! How wonderful and heartwarming to see the abused and downtrodden regaining their POWER, which exists in all of us.

    • Why should we live our lives in constant fear? POWER live inside us it is time which helps it to come out. Thanks a lot for always putting pleasure comments. You encourage me in my path. Wishing you much light and joy!

  5. Heroes. They are acting and defending in ways that many of us have been incapable. Maybe we need to face more hardship or dare even share in these hardships in order for us to act on our values and beliefs. I hale to these women in pink. Thank you for your recognition.

  6. Akash, how on earth have I missed your recent pics? Only now I came across these sets !

    Your photo-essay is beyond brilliance, as you have manifested the raw humanness in such a profound and sensitive manner without the exploitation that often I see in many people’s platform on social issues. Akash, you are such a gem and a well deserving photographer that captures human complexities and conditions in most real ways — through your lens. Poverty is the zenith of the many lives in Bangladesh, howsoever, with your camera you have the moral responsibility to manifest their lives with sense and sensibility – which you have revealed in all your photo essays. Much love and respect to you my friend. Cheers.

    • Dear friend,
      It is my duty as a photographer and artist to point with my pictures at every aspect of existence in the society and world I live in, to show what can be shown, to go deep into every milieu and also into every aspect of poverty, deprivation and hardship that I encounter – because the only sin for a photographer is to turn his head and look away. I see the beauty of people and the human soul in the pictures I take. And though the circumstances of some of the people I portray may be grim, back-breaking, depraved, the people themselves are always remarkable characters and souls.

      Your words always touches and inspire me with high velocity. Thanks for being in my circle. My blessings are always with you.

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