Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The self organisation of the working class

Came across this intriguing story . Several hundred vigilante women of India's northern Uttar Pradesh state's Banda area call themselves the "gulabi gang" (pink gang) striking fear in the hearts of wrongdoers . The `Gulabi gang' shot into limelight in April 2006 when it seized three tractors of wheat being pilfered from the public distribution system and thrashed the guilty persons. Later, action was taken against the `kotedar' ( wholesaler).

The pink women of Banda shun political parties and NGOs because, in the words of their feisty leader, Sampat Pal Devi, "they are always looking for kickbacks when they offer to fund us".

Two years after they gave themselves a name and an attire, the pink women have thrashed men who have abandoned or beaten their wives and unearthed corruption in the distribution of food grains for the poor. They have also stormed a police station and thrashed a policeman who refused to register a case after they took in an untouchable man .

"Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law in our hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers," says Sampat Pal Devi, between teaching a "gang" member on how to use a lathi (traditional Indian stick) in self defence. "Mind you , we are not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We are a gang for justice."

Banda is at the heart of the blighted region that is Bundelkhand, one of the poorest parts of one of India's most populous states. It is one of the poorest 200 districts in India which were first targeted for the federal government's massive jobs for work programme. 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, domestic and sexual violence are common.

"Village society in India is loaded against women. It refuses to educate them, marries them off too early, barters them for money. Village women need to study and become independent to sort it out themselves," .

Nor has it been a women - only movement . Men like Jai Prakash Shivhari join the "gulabi" gang and talk about child marriages, dowry deaths, depleting water resources, farm subsidies, and how funds are being stolen in government works.


Radicalinat said...

Awesome post! I will be reposting this on my blog, Myspace, and forwarding it as an e-mail...Inspiring, heartening, and very interesting...

Sounds almost too good to be true...Though I guess it is on BBC so it must be true ;)...Thank you for unearthing this and for posting...

Anonymous said...

A truly inspirational story. I hope the trend catches on.