Summary and book reviews of Pink Sari Revolution by Amana Fontanella-Khan

Pink Sari Revolution

A Tale of Women and Power in India

By Amana Fontanella-Khan

Pink Sari Revolution
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2013,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: 25 Aug 2014,
    304 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

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.

Excerpt
Pink Sari Revolution

On August 2, 2006, less than a year after Sampat started the gang, she was sitting on her patio with Babuji and Lakhan when she received a visit from a woman called Sushila, a mother of eight living below the poverty line. Between sobs, Sushila told Sampat that the police had beaten up and taken away her husband, Bare Lal, after a dispute he had had with a neighbor a few days earlier. Sushila's husband was being detained without any charge, and the police hadn't provided his family with any information about the arrest.

Sampat was not surprised by Sushila's story—by then she had handled numerous cases involving illegal detention, which was rampant in many parts of India where domestic law allows the police to arrest individuals on the mere basis of "reasonable suspicion." There are virtually no remedies available to wrongfully imprisoned citizens, and offending officers are rarely disciplined. It is a system in which police can ...

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The women of the state are generally penniless, and consequently have little legal recourse. If they are raped or beaten, often the male involved merely pays a bribe to have the case dismissed. Sampat Pal Devi and her group of women look for cases such as these and seek redress, often using unconventional methods. Sheer force of numbers is often enough to intimidate law enforcement into doing the right thing.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

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.

Kirkus Reviews

As delightful as it is intelligent and important.

Library Journal

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.

Author Blurb Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men: And the Rise of Women

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.

Author Blurb Sonia Faleiro, author of Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars
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.

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The Lathi

Throughout Pink Sari Revolution, the stick carried by the Gulabi Gang is referred to as a pink-painted "baton." More accurately it is a lathi stick – a traditional Indian weapon, made of bamboo, with a long history of martial use.

The lathi being used by police Lathi (pronounced LAH-tee) literally means "bamboo stick" in Hindi. It is widely considered to be one of the oldest weapons in the world, and its use can be traced to aboriginal times throughout what is now eastern India and Bangladesh. Made from the male bamboo, it is usually six to eight feet long and is sometimes bound at intervals with iron rings or tipped with a metal blunt. It is an inexpensive, readily available weapon that is extremely effective at close range, operated by swinging like a bat ...

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