Pink Sari Revolution: A Tale of Women and Power in the Badlands of India
by Amana Fontanella-Khan
One World Publications (2013)
According to author Amanda Fontanella-Khan, the “economic liberalization”* of Indian in the 1990s was accompanied by a massive increase in violence towards women. Although reported rapes shot up by 792%, while conviction rates steadily dropped. Domestic violence increased by 30% during the same period.
In the Pink Sari Revolution, Fontanella-Kahn traces the life history of Sampat Pal Devi. In 2006 Sampat founded the Pink Gang in Bundelkhahnd on the southwest border of Utta Pradesh. With a population of 200 million, Utta Pradesh is the poorest state in India, with poverty levels worse than sub-Saharan Africa. Reaching a membership of 20,000 by 2008, the group wore pink saris and carried pink bamboo sticks to administer vigilante justice where the police failed to prosecute men guilty of domestic and sexual violence against women.
According to Fontanella-Kahn, the police force of Utta Pradesh is one of the largest criminal gangs on the planet. Illegal detentions without formal charges are common, as are incidents in which police sexually assault women arrestees.
The book follows the specific case in which the Pink Gang, with the support of anti-corruption journalists, forced the Utta Pradesh police to release an 18 year Dalit** woman illegally jailed after a corrupt legislator had her arrested on fraudulent theft charge. She had run away after the legislator detained her in his home against her will, where he raped and physically assaulted her.
After the Pink Sari Gang staged massive protests in front of the jail, the Supreme Court ordered the girl released and the legislator held on rape charges. They also ordered the rape case transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation, due to low confidence local police would do a thorough investigation.
At the time of publication, the legislator (Pushottam Naresh Dwivedi) was still in jail awaiting his trial. He died of kidney disease in April 2021 while serving his sentence.
*This is the euphemistic term for “reforms” India adopted in the 1990s to increase foreign investment by reducing import tariffs and taxes and reducing corporation regulation. The result was a rapid increase in wealth for India’s elite. along with massively increased political corruption, as India’s legislators, bureaucrats, police and prosecutors began demanding bribes to perform their assigned duties.