A day with Sampat Pal, the 53-year-old leader of the Gulabi Gang, is like being in the middle of a tornado. After her car picks us up at Atarra station at about 8 am, the day is one continuous whirlwind of visits to police stations, listening to woebegone villagers, attending property disputes, interacting with women seeking empowerment and dealing with irate-but-circumspect officials.
In Pista, a crew of two dozen pink saris turns up unannounced at the sarpanch’s house in connection with a local dispute. All eyes follow Sampat with respect—she is a legend that lives and walks their streets. On the way back, Sampat offers a ride to Saira, a thirtysomething mother of two. Her husband left her for another woman. When she came to Gulabi Gang, Sampat taught her how to deal with litigation rather than beg to be taken back. “When the judge offered to pass an order that would return the dowry, wedding charges, maintenance and everything else, I asked him—’Can you return my honour?’ He just dictated the maintenance order in my favour,” says Saira.