Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Speak softly and carry a big stick

NPR's Morning Edition had a great piece yesterday about the "Pink Sari Gang".  In a part of India where corruption is rampant and justice is fleeting, one woman, Sampat Devil Pal, got mad as hell and decided she wasn't going to take it anymore. When one of her friends was assaulted - and the authorities did nothing - she organized a group of women to push the police for action.

Sometimes she uses persuasion or shame ... and when that doesn't work, the sticks come out.
These sticks are called lathis. The police in India beat people with them when they want to keep crowds in line. Sampat demonstrates her combat skills, grinning as she spars with an office assistant. The lathis are mainly for self-defense, she says. But the Pink Sari Gang sometimes uses them in anger.

Ms. Pal: (Through Translator) These days, we use them mainly on drunk men. What else are we supposed to do with men that drink and misbehave with women?
Preach it sister.

Corrupt police and officials, looking for a handout? Not on her watch:
There's a story about Sampat going to the police to try to release a man whom she thinks the police arrested purely to get a bribe. This is Sampat's version of what happened after the police turned her away.

Ms. Pal: (Through Translator) The next day, I took my gang of several hundred women, all with lathi sticks. We surrounded the police station. We beat the police officers sitting outside the station. The other policemen came out with their lathi sticks. Our women then got very aggressive and started beating up the police, and then we tied them up.
She's not just a vigilante though. She uses her fame and growing stature to improve the conditions in her community. Including discouraging the marriage of underage girls. She herself was entered into an arranged marriage at twelve.

Ms. Pal: (Through Translator) A man will never have enough guts to raise a hand against me. I would just slap him back into place. If a woman really wants to, she can put a man in his place.

No comments: