A journalist’s inspiring story of the “Pink Gang,” a group of ordinary women fighting for justice in the political badlands of Northern India.
Corruption was a fact of life in Uttar Pradesh, and females were too often the victims of the social, political and economic inequalities that defined this Indian “Wild West.” But as Fontanella-Khan shows in this lively account, they were not without hope, nor were they without a champion. Sampat Pal, a community organizer who knew firsthand what it meant to endure such common gender injustices as forced childhood marriage to an older man, knew she needed to help make a difference in the lives of women. She began by creating an NGO to foster female financial independence. Soon, however, she discovered that when women came to her, their concerns included issues that affected whole communities, such as access to better roads and “bribery-free bureaucracy.” Pal responded by organizing the women her NGO helped into a stick-wielding, pink sari–uniformed group that local journalists christened the Pink Gang. Fontanella-Khan deftly interweaves her portrait of Pal and her amazing sisterhood into the larger story of a notorious 2010 court case involving a dishonest politician’s rape, abuse and imprisonment of a young girl accused of stealing from him. Through confrontation with police, marches in the street and acts of humiliation aimed at publically embarrassing “rogue politicians,” the Gang succeeded in helping to get the wronged girl freed. More significantly, they, and especially Pal, established themselves as a social and political force to be reckoned with in a country that, for all its economic gains, is a place where life is “steadily worsening,” rather than improving, for women.
As delightful as it is intelligent and important.