Bundelkhand: Sampat Pal, a 52-year-old activist-turned-politician, known for her association with the Gulabi Gang, is back in contention as a Congress candidate for the ongoing Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. After tasting failure in the 2012 elections, she is set to contest again from the Manikpur constituency.
The exploits of the Gulabi Gang – a battery of women dressed in pink saris known for their vigilante style of justice in the boondocks of Bundelkhand – had catapulted Pal to international fame, when Bollywood gave the nod to a film starring Madhuri Dixit in the lead role, titled Gulaab Gang (2014). Pal then went on to participate in the TV reality show Big Boss season 6, and became a household name. Brussels-based author Amana Fontanella-Khan penned her story in the book 'Pink Sari Revolution'.
Her brand of activism hit the headlines when she took a police station in-charge to task over a dispute related to the public distribution (ration) system. She, along with a group of women dressed in pink saris, carrying wooden sticks (lathis) in their hands, attacked the police official and an administrative officer.
This incident drew the attention of Fatehpur-based social activist Jaiprakash Shivhare, who later named the group ‘Gulabi Gang’ and virtually became Pal’s mentor.
The sudden rise to fame opened the political doors for Pal. Though she was initiated into electoral politics by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, she lost the support of her gang, that split into two factions over her decision to enter politics. Shivhare and Pal, too, parted ways over her decision.
“After she became popular in the media, the French and Italian governments invited her to their countries. Pal met Sonia Gandhi’s mother when she visited Italy. The latter gifted her a ring and addressed her as ‘daughter’. This is how Pal got connected to the Congress president and her political journey began,” claimed one of the co-founders of the Gulabi Gang, Bhagwat Dwivedi.
On ground zero, Pal is busy campaigning on issues like installation of tube-wells, water supply, electricity, roads, education for children, etc and hopes to win this time, as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has appealed to Samajwadi Party voters to support her.
And, if she wins the election, Pal hopes to build a film city in Manikpur. Incidentally, she is also acting in a film these days.
“If I win this time, I’ll ensure English medium education for children from villages, especially girls. Next is employment and growth in income for farmers; we don’t need subsidies,” Pal told Firstpost, in an interview during her rally at Chitrakoot.
She dubbed the Madhuri Dixit-starrer Gulaab Gang as a ‘fake film’, claiming that her character was wrongly portrayed.
“It was a bakwaas aur farzee’ (useless and fake) film as my character was wrongly portrayed. I never used a sickle... we use lathis. I’m acting in a film based on my life and journey, in which I’m playing the role of actor Rajpal Yadav’s mother. I hope to get elected this time and my dream is to build a film city in Manikpur,” the crusader, who hails from Banda, asserted with confidence.
According to the Gulabi Gang, it has four lakh women members across the state and around 25,000 of those are from Manikpur.
“We joined her in 2008 to form a group to fight the drought in Bundelkhand. Today, the focus of Gulabi Gang is not to demand security for women but rather to empower them. Whenever we receive a call from a woman in distress, we contact our district-level commanders to take the call and contact senior administrative and police officials. The movement is growing strong and once Pal becomes an MLA, it’ll receive a big push,” added another co-founder, Ajay Singh.
Updated Date: Feb 24, 2017 15:18 PM