As a teacher to high school children, whenever we discussed social justice in the worlds of books we read, one question that would repeatedly come up was, "How do we understand privilege, if you say it is all around us—how can we work with the 'lowest' common denominator if there will always be more walls and more marginalization?"; and I remember not being to answer that question most of the time. By the end of the year, as a class, what we could loftily conclude was where our own privileges and marginalizations lay; given that we did all that we could to "not speak for others." Of course, we should have realized that growing up in Bombay meant we were speaking for others; coming of age in the decades of neoliberal economic policies in the cultural capital of the country does that to a generation of people—by being the very people who later India Shining addresses, we yield that kind of power. The privilege to voice someone else's story, and to use our particular frame to view their lives.
"I took my gang of several hundred women, all with leki sticks, we surrounded the police station, we beat the police officers sitting outside the station. Then other policemen came out with their leki sticks, our women then got very aggressive and starting beating the police...and then we tied them up."
It's not every morning there's a generally glowing NPR story about, well, militant grassroots uprisings against patriarchy and social injustice, but this morning's story about the Pink Sari Gang from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh was certainly that...at least if you can get past the constant references to how "angry" and "vengeful" these women are.
Poking around a little bit on the web, I found an even better mini-documentary on the Gulabi (pink) Gang. Turns out that (surprise, surprise) they don't just beat up police, but have a range of programs encouraging women's empowerment and self-sufficiency, sustainability and jobs. Here's the video: