The formidable lathi forced into submission many a wife-beater, drunkard husband and errant public servant since a young wife started an aggressive movement for women’s emancipation in Uttar Pradesh’s backward Bundelkhand in the 1990s. It was an anticlimax that the bamboo stick – ubiquitous with the Gulabi Gang – was nowhere to be seen near 51-year-old Sampat Pal, the group’s founder, or with the comrades milling around her in bright pink saris last week. Pal explained, “Lathi se har samasya ka samadhan nahin hota. Baat karke samjhane se rasta nikalta hain (A stick can’t solve all problems. One has to talk and counsel to find a way).” That sounded more politician than a hard-line feminist, coming from a woman who is a household name in the region for wielding a lathi to combat atrocities against women, or to fight for social justice and rights in a male-centric society.