Pink Sari Revolution: A Tale of Women and Power in India [NOOK Book]

Overview

A triumphant portrait of a fiery sisterhood changing the lives of India's women.


In Uttar Pradesh—known as the "badlands" of India—a woman’s life is not entirely her own. This is one explanation for how Sheelu, a seventeen-year-old girl, ended up in jail after fleeing her service in the home of a powerful local legislator. In a region plagued by corruption, an incident like this might have gone ...
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Pink Sari Revolution: A Tale of Women and Power in India

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Overview

A triumphant portrait of a fiery sisterhood changing the lives of India's women.


In Uttar Pradesh—known as the "badlands" of India—a woman’s life is not entirely her own. This is one explanation for how Sheelu, a seventeen-year-old girl, ended up in jail after fleeing her service in the home of a powerful local legislator. In a region plagued by corruption, an incident like this might have gone unnoticed—except that it captured the attention of Sampat Pal, leader of India’s infamous Gulabi (Pink) Gang.

Poor and illiterate, married off around the age of twelve, pregnant with her first child at fifteen, and prohibited from attending school, Sampat Pal has risen to become the courageous commander and chief of a women’s brigade numbering in the tens of thousands. Uniformed in pink saris and carrying pink batons, they aim to intervene wherever other women are victims of abuse or injustice. Joined in her struggle by Babuji, a sensitive man whose intellectualism complements her innate sense of justice, and by a host of passionate field commanders, Sampat Pal has confronted policemen and gangsters, officiated love marriages, and empowered women to become financially independent.


In a country where women’s rights struggle to keep up with rapid modernization, the story of Sampat Pal and her Pink Gang illuminates the thrilling possibilities of female grassroots activism.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A maze of political intrigue, personal melodrama, and feminist activism unfolds in this account of the Pink Gang, a band of Indian women clad in pink saris and carrying pink sticks, who operate both as vigilantes and saviors of abused women. In her first book, journalist Fontanella-Khan relates the development of the organization—established by Sampat Devi Pal and operating in Northern India’s Uttar Pradesh region—while following the case of Sheelu Nisad, falsely accused of stealing by a prominent political figure who raped her. It’s a heady mix; the large cast is entangled in familial relations and caste complexities, and the story is complicated by conflicting accounts of the girl’s case. The Pink Gang grows from a handful of “old widows and middle-aged gadflies” to a political force to be reckoned with, as Sampat has a “highly publicized meeting with Sonia Gandhi.” In telling the story of the now 20,000-strong Pink Gang, who chose pink as the only color in India free of political or religious associations, the author delves into the roles played by the gang’s supportive husbands, pro bono lawyers, and the attentive press. Having interviewed the principals and reviewed available newspaper accounts, Fontanella-Khan brings a novelist’s pacing to a timely page-turner that is essentially political; party politics, political corruption, and the wretched treatment of rape victims are her true subjects. Agent: Sophie Lambert, Conville & Walsh. (Aug.)
Hanna Rosin
“With her usual deep reporting, humane storytelling, clarity of explanation, and wry humor, Fontanella-Khan brings to life a group of women who have overcome origins and odds most of us can not even imagine to create a movement that might very well change India—and the West’s image of what it means to be a woman in the Third World.”
Sonia Faleiro
“A powerful, engrossing portrait of one woman’s fight for female empowerment in India. Sampat Pal’s extraordinary courage will inspire you, delight you, and fill you with hope.”
Eve Ensler
“A call to women everywhere to take the world into your hands, to rise and resist.”
The New Republic
“A fine tribute to a remarkable woman, a close look at an India that still exists beneath the economic boom of recent years, and a rousing reminder that formidable will can make a difference.”
Meenakshi Venkat - New York Journal of Books
“Riveting, inspiring, and relevant…. A fast-paced, powerful, and sympathetic portrait of a victim and her subaltern champion in the dusty heart of northern India.”
John McMurtrie - San Francisco Chronicle
“A nuanced humanizing portrait of a teenage-mother-turned-social-crusader who is loud, boastful and blessed with a wicked sense of humor.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“A nuanced humanizing portrait of a teenage-mothe-rturned-
social-crusader who is loud, boastful and blessed with a wicked sense of humor.”
New Statesman
“A fascinating portrait of a country in flux.”
Financial Times
“Powerful. . . . draws the reader in.”
Library Journal
Sampat Devi Pal is an Indian activist who in 2006 started the Pink Sari Gang, a woman's vigilante group; by 2008, there were 20,000 members. Operating in the badlands of Bundelkhand (a region in the state of Uttar Pradesh), the women protest domestic violence and seek justice against the machinations of corrupt politicians and unresponsive police. They also conduct the traditionally forbidden mass "love-marriages" of couples. The group gets its name from the pink saris worn by its members. The author, a journalist of Pakistani-Irish heritage, spent over four years in India. She begins her book with the investigation of a case involving the wrongful imprisonment of a minor allegedly raped by a legislator. Along the way the reader learns of the Pink Sari Gang's modus operandi and of Pal's background and mettle. Despite her lack of a formal education, Pal emerges as an enlightened leader who could teach a thing or two to all vigilantes. VERDICT An inspiring profile of an extraordinary woman who breaks all stereotypes and of her cause. Dealing with a timely topic, this title is highly recommended for all applicable collections.—Ravi Shenoy, Naperville, IL
Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393240603
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/29/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 568,176
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Amana Fontanella-Khan is a contributor to Slate, the Daily Beast, the New York Times, and the Christian Science Monitor, and was formerly a contributing editor at Vogue India. Previously based in Mumbai, she now lives in Brussels.
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