India's 'pink' vigilante women
By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Banda
They wear pink saris and go after corrupt officials and boorish men with sticks and axes.
The several hundred vigilante women of India's northern Uttar Pradesh state's Banda area proudly call themselves the "gulabi gang" (pink gang), striking fear in the hearts of wrongdoers and earning the grudging respect of officials.
The pink women of Banda shun political parties and NGOs because, in the words of their feisty leader, Sampat Pal Devi, "they are always looking for kickbacks when they offer to fund us".
Two years after they gave themselves a name and an attire, the women in pink have thrashed men who have abandoned or beaten their wives and unearthed corruption in the distribution of grain to the poor.
They have also stormed a police station and attacked a policeman after they took in an untouchable man and refused to register a case.
"Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law in our hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers," says Sampat Pal Devi, between teaching a "gang" member on how to use a lathi (traditional Indian stick) in self defence.