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Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Kiran Bedi

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By Sanjana Ahuja:

As India’s political nucleus gears up for elections, a surprise candidate has been thrown into the assorted mix of babus, bhaiyas, and didis who are not just vying, but dying for a seat.

“Delhi needs a stable, strong, corruption-free government. I have the experience, time and energy to make Delhi a world-class capital city,” Kiran Bedi declared after it became official that she had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and would be contesting in the February 7th elections. Further, on 21st January, she filed her nomination papers from Krishna Nagar Assembly constituency, and made it clear that her aspirations were not limited to merely grabbing a seat; she was aiming for the big league. “The great enthusiasm of people is a clear indication. This area [Krishna Nagar] will get both – a Cabinet minister and the chief minister of Delhi,” said a beaming Bedi on Wednesday.

Kiran Bedi has become a household name in India for her incredible service to this Nation as the first woman to join the IPS. Her painstaking no-nonsense efforts in the fields of reformative policing, prison management, women’s emancipation and anti-corruption led to her being voted ‘The Most Admired Indian’ in 2012 and ‘Most Trusted Woman in India’ in 2010. Her impressive resume, combined with over forty years of administrative experience, should make her a no-brainer candidate for any party. However, the reality of the situation is a bit more complicated than that.

This sudden move has raised a lot of eyebrows for a lot of reasons. The first question one asks is – why is the BJP bringing in new members less than a month before the elections? Can this be read as a sign of nervousness on part of the BJP? To me it seems that the transferring of AAP leaders and Anna’s followers into the BJP is the party’s way of showing the masses that Kejriwal is losing his trusted comrades. BJP lacked any prolific local leadership in Delhi and was probably hoping to sweep these elections on the same Modi vs. Kejriwal plank. However, after their recent rally received a lukewarm response, the rightist party’s leadership knew that some extreme steps must be taken. And hence, they brought in Ms. Bedi: the game changer.

Now, coming to the second issue that is playing on everyone’s minds. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do have some memory of the illustrious Ms. Bedi making some rather frank statements regarding the politics in this country. She has gone ahead and called all our netas ‘chors’ and ‘shaitans’, and in fact accused Arvind Kejriwal of betraying Anna Hazare when the former decided to participate in electoral politics. In 2013, when she was invited to join the AAP, she said (in an interview with Firstpost), “I treat all such suggestions and offers with respect and gratitude. I also understand fully the possible reasons of their requests. But I am unable to accept them as I am by nature a non-political person.”

Even more surprising than Ms. Bedi joining politics is her joining a party which has been alleged of standing for everything she vociferously worked against, including accusations of corruption and nepotism. Kiran Bedi not so long ago publicly humiliated two senior BJP leaders, Gopinath Munde and Ananth Kumar, and proceeded to mock the MPs and their “double-faced utterances”. Moreover, her past tweets revealed that she hasn’t always been an ardent supporter of Narendra Modi, the man spearheading the saffron wave that she has now jumped on.

kiran bedi tweet

Does anyone stand for anything any more? Or are even India’s most trusted officials being pulled in by greed and opportunism? Kiran Bedi’s entry into the party seems more a transactional relationship between her and the BJP rather than a transformational one that changed her ideology.

Keeping everything else aside, let us presume for a moment that Kiran Bedi does win the elections and becomes Delhi’s next Chief Minister (as many are expecting her to be). Will she really be able to make as big an impact as she hopes to? I would say no. Not because she isn’t a dynamic and strong woman, but because these very qualities would make it hard for her function within the BJP. Many leaders already seem unhappy about being outshined by a political newbie and short-circuits within that party are almost a certainty at this point. “…Such outsourcing and so much attention to a newcomer is a little unjust for those who have spent their lives as loyal workers of the party,” a founding member of the Delhi BJP told Firstpost on the condition of anonymity.

Also, a cadre-driven and strictly organized party like the BJP lays strong emphasis on unquestioningly following instructions from above, a feat which we would expect Bedi to oppose. “She is rude and arrogant. Her dictatorial tendencies may have an adverse impact on the party’s prospect. It will be difficult for workers to work with her. Since we work under the umbrella of the BJP, we will follow instructions of our leader as obedient foot soldiers,” another leader said.

Her strong election manifesto based on her 6 ‘P’ formula (prisons, prosecution, outreach to people, parents, improving policing, including community policing, and finally, the press), would require a lot of independent decision making power to be left in her hands, something which again would face opposition from the top leadership. Moreover, if she gains such power in the BJP, she would also need to learn to work to keep their allies at the RSS, the VHP, and the Bajrang Dal happy.

So all in all, what I gather from this issue is that the media is over-hyping it and creating much ado about nothing. As Bedi is set to dirty her hands in the cesspool that she once considered competitive politics to be, she can’t really be the Messiah that she envisions herself as, at least not until the internal structures of the BJP are changed drastically. I believe that she could have made much greater changes from the outside by assuming an advisory role, addressing rallies and canvassing for other candidates.

Yes, she has behaved hypocritically. And yes, this move reeks of political opportunism. Maybe she has more in common with all the other netas than she ever realized.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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