Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 8, 2013

The Gulabi Gang

Dubai, UAE en route to New Delhi, India

Henry David Thoreau once said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” And indeed, what we see, what we really see not just with our eyes but with our heart, matters. That is often what motivates people to go beyond any concerns for their own safety in order to do something courageous to help others. That’s what happened in the life of Sampat Pal Devi, an Indian women who lives in a small village in the rural hinterland of Uttar Pradesh.

Sampat is no stranger to difficulties and challenges. Denied the opportunity to go to school, she learned to read and write by eavesdropping outside the windows of the local boys’ school. Her parents, fearful that Sampat’s desire to get an education might lead her astray, married her off to a man nine years her senior when she was just barely 12 years old. She had given birth to five children by the time she was 20.

At 43 years of age, Sampat saw a man in her village publicly beating his wife. Many others saw what was happening but turned away. “I’d seen this happen before,” Sampat confessed, “and hadn’t reacted, but this time for some reason I became infuriated to see the man assaulting his wife.” Sampat could no longer remain silent or indifferent. She had to do something.

When she asked the man to stop beating his wife he refused and then cursed her. The following day, Sampat gathered some women from the village and armed them with lathis, long bamboo sticks. She led the women to the home of the man who had abused his wife. The women dragged him out of his house and thrashed him with their bamboo sticks until he promised never to hit his wife again.

That incident convinced Sampat that there is power in unity. As a result she formed a permanent band of women vigilantes to confront wrongdoers in their community. Sampat decided that the group would dress in pink — “gulabi” in Hindi. The Gulabi Gang started with five members in 2006. Today, there are more than 20,000 women in chapters in villages across India.

Sampat’s pink vigilantes are committed to championing the rights of women and children and the weak. They are fearless! “We fight for the oppressed,” Sampat explains, “and confront those who misbehave with women. We have dealt firmly with people who would kill their newborn on finding she is a girl. … We challenge stereotypes and intervene where the law refuses to help us and age-old traditions exploit women.”

Today, at age 50, Sampat has received numerous recognitions and has traveled to the United States, France, Sweden, and Italy to speak about the discrimination of women. All of this because she saw a woman who was being publicly beaten by her husband and decided it was time to act. Whether or not you agree with Sampat’s methods, you have to admire her resolve. Sampat and her pink vigilantes, armed with their convictions and lathis, are making life safer for women in India.

So, if you are a man living in India and thinking about harming a woman — be warned! If you make these ladies see red you will likely be seeing pink.


  1. Excellent read Pastor Omar. Brought a smile to my face.

    • Thanks, Vinita. I enjoyed my time with you and Timothy in New Delhi. Thanks again for the invitation to speak at the Women’s Day event at St. Thomas’ Church.

  2. […] The Gulabi Gang ( […]

  3. […] and young girls in India. While traveling to India in 2013, I read a fascinating story about the Gulabi Gang — a coalition of women who were fed up with the abuse of women on the subcontinent. Now more than […]

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