At a time when the entire country is up in arms on the issue of women's security, this group of fiesty young girls in Lucknow comes as a ray of hope.
Subscribing to an eye for an eye and a kick for every lewd comment, these girls just know how to give it back to people who cross the limits of decency.
Aptly called 'Red Brigade' owing to their red and black attire, all members of the gang, comprising mostly teens in Lucknow, have been victims themselves, with some being targetted by rank strangers while others tormented by people they once called their own. But putting all that behind, these 25-odd girls are out to challenge patriarchal mindsets.
Says leader of the two-year old gang Usha Vishvakarma, "I was just 18 when a little girl whom I gave tuitions was raped by her brother. Soon after, a colleague made a rape attempt at me. Though I escaped, the incident continued to haunt me for a year."
On recovering from the experience, this daughter of a labourer and eldest among four siblings took a revolutionary step and underwent gender equality training before forming the Red Brigade.
Starting with a handful of girls of Madiaon locality, the group was gradually joined by many other school and college girls, who had been victims of eve teasing and molestation.
Like the rest of the nation, the members of the Red Brigade are shaken with the death of the 23year-old gangrape victim in Delhi for whom they had been agitating for the past few days. Now, all they want is the harshest punishment for the culprits.
"The victim died every moment during her 13 days of struggle and her tormentors too should die a similar death. They should be hanged till death in full public view to set an example for the rest of the men," says Usha. Preeti, another member, feels it is important to raise voice against abuses. "Many girls prefer to stay quiet because society is not ready to help them. But we need to help ourselves and that is the only thing that can set things right," she says. The Red Brigade girls are all trained in gender equality and are now trainers for other girls. The brutal Delhi gangrape has been a lesson for the brigade that is gearing up to learn martial arts for selfdefence now.
Says Pooja, "All girls must be trained in martial arts so that they are able to defend themselves in such a situations. We would learn it and then train many other girls."
About the interesting garb of the brigade, Usha, 25, says, "Red symbolises danger while black is a symbol of opposition. When we wore the colours, boys on the streets began to address us as red brigade and we realised that it was the perfect name for us."
The brigade is replete with young girls who are an example in resilience. Afreen, a class 10 student and daughter of driver, says, "My step brother exploited me sexually but no one believed me, not even my mother. But now, after joining the brigade, I kicked my brother out of the house."
"The red dress we wear fills us with confidence. Those who dare to tease us, get it back from us. And now when we learn martial arts, no one would be able to look at us with bad intentions," says Laxmi, another member of the brigade.
Despite being part of the phenomenal group, the going has never been easy for these girls with naysayers constantly raising eybrows and opposing their efforts.
But, nothing succeeds in dampening their spirit. There are several cases against Usha, fabricated by people she took on, but she continues empowering girls.