I Am Revenge: The Unheard Stories Of Female Vigilantes

Published September 11, 2015
Updated February 27, 2024

The Gulabi, India

Female Vigilantes Gulabi Gang

Members of the Gulabi Gang in India Image Source: Indiegogo

All too often, acts of vengeance happen in groups. Northern India is home to one such group which call themselves the Gulabi. Members of the “Pink” Gang operate in one of the poorest and most dangerous districts of India, the Banda District of Uttar Pradesh. In 2013 there were over 1,963 known cases of rape, 7,910 cases of kidnapping, and 2,244 cases of dowry death in the region.

The movement took root in the 1980s, when founder Sampat Devi Pal used a stick against a neighbor who abused his wife. Nine years ago Devi used her brand of alternative justice to start the Gulabi Gang, which now boasts over 400,000 members. Indian journalists have credited the Gulabi members–who can be seen dressed in all pink and wielding bamboo sticks to punish local abusers–for starting a “mini-revolution” on behalf of women.

In an interview with Vice, Sampat Pal details the gang’s process, saying:

“First we go to the police and request that they do something. But since the administration is against the poor people of our country, we often end up taking matters into our own hands. We first speak to the husband who is beating his wife. If he doesn’t understand then we ask his wife to join us while we beat him with lathis [sticks].

Our missions have a 100 percent success rate. We have never failed in bringing justice when it comes to domestic problems. Dealing with the administration is the tricky part since we cannot always take the law in our hands—especially with such corrupt lawmakers. We did beat up some corrupt officials but we were ultimately helpless.”

Beyond helping abused women, the Gulabis also work to prevent child marriages, arrange weddings for couples who are in love despite local protest, and ensure that basic rights for impoverished people are protected.

The Gulabi gang has been such a formidable force over the years that their work has been recognized by local officials. Arvind Sen, the superintendent of the Banda District, notes that their efforts in the area have brought a new desire to fight against women’s exploitation.

Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Cox, Savannah. "I Am Revenge: The Unheard Stories Of Female Vigilantes." AllThatsInteresting.com, September 11, 2015, https://allthatsinteresting.com/female-vigilantes. Accessed June 22, 2024.