We have been in India for a little more than a week, and these last 9 days have been filled with crazy, wierd, a lot of alienation, and delicious food.
Wednesday last week we arrived Chawani, Banda, Uttar Pradesh. We had traveled a long way to end up only an hour away from Gulabi Gang and Sampat Pal, this legendary group of women vigilantes in village India. In godforsaken parts in India. We wanted to meet these women that talk back, stops child marriages and threatens to beat up husbands if they don’t cut their violent crap.
On Thursday we hired a taxi and decided to try our luck. We had no translator and none of us spoke hindi, and the communication with our taxi driver was mostly gesticulation and we knew that Sampat Pal, the leader of Gulabi Gang spoke no English.
We eventually found the Gulabi Gang head office in Badosa, and were given other directions. Little did we know that these directions would lead us to a police station, and that we were actually going to witness all these radical ladies perform an action.
Luckily, on of the police officers at Shivrampor police station were able to tell us what was going on. He said that Sampat had asked us to come here so that we could publish this story because no Indian media showed any interest.
Sampat Pal points her hand to a girl sitting next to her.
– She is six month pregnant, she says.
The police officers translates and tells us that the girl was raped, that they have now arrested two men and that before Sampat came into the picture, no-one were taking any actions regarding justice for the rape survivor.
13-year-old village girl «Suvetha» was kidnapped to the mountains and raped until her family and other villagers surrounded the place and rescued her. When the family tried to report it to the police, the police refused to make an FIR report (first information report) and told them to abort the pregnancy.
– The girl’s father called me and told me that no-one cared about the case. I immediately went to their house, got the girl, brought her to the police station and demanded to write a report, says Sampat.
Because Gulabi Gang and Sampat Pal’s recognition in rural societies, the police did make a report this time, and finally arrested the perpetrators. The girl’s family is now trying to get compensated for the crime.
We ask her what will happen to the girl, and she says that the girl is young, and cannot choose for herself.
– She is only 13. The family wants her to have an abortion, but I have told them not to and have offered to take care of the child for them, as I believe the unborn child is innocent and shouldn’t be killed.
Sampat also tells her that if the girl want to, she can choose to marry the rapist when she has turned 18. The rapist marrying the rape survivor is a common punishment in rural districts in India. A girl’s value drops the moment she has been raped and it makes it harder, or impossible, for the family to marry her off to someone else as she is culturally considered unclean. The fact that Suvetha is given the option is to be considered rather radical in this context.
During the 30 minutes we spend at the police station, ten other gangs members have arrived the place with another rape survivor, and we decide it’s time for us to head back to Chawani. We agree to meet Sampat the next morning for another interview about their work.
Text: Rita Paramalingam
Foto: Quim Kamikaze