By Devang Pathak:
I firmly believe that life makes hypocrites out of everyone. If change is the only constant, then it is hard for anyone to have unwavering beliefs throughout their lives. However, it is also essential for one to state the reasons for such a change. This is where my problem lies with Kiran Bedi’s decision to enter politics with the Delhi Elections.
Kiran Bedi has been a hard to miss figure in public life since the 1980s. She was an inspiring leader who would speak up for the Indian Police Service and social causes in the media as well as deliver with decisive action. As the first woman IPS officer, she marked an important step in social change with a glorious career which established the importance of good governance, irrespective of gender. But my generation knows her famously as the face of the India Against Corruption campaign of 2011.
The ‘apolitical’ agitation lead by Anna Hazare had Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi as his staunch supporters who demanded change in the way systemic corruption was addressed in the country. The agitation boiled down to a stage where Mr. Kejriwal and a few supporters of the movement decided to form a political party to combat corruption, while Anna Hazare and Mrs. Bedi refused to enter politics. Mrs. Bedi said that she did not want to join the Aam Aadmi Party as she was politically neutral. But in January 2015, she was declared the BJP’s Chief Ministerial Candidate for the upcoming Delhi Elections.
While many are busy questioning her sudden change in stance by joining politics, there is a section of the Delhi public which is questioning her credibility for the post itself. The All Delhi Bar Association Coordination Committee have demanded an apology from Bedi for an incident 27 years ago when she was the DCP of Delhi’s North District.
In 1988, a protest by lawyers had erupted against Bedi for the arrest and handcuffing of their colleague Rajesh Agnihotri, a practicing lawyer at the Tis Hazari Courts Complex. There were widespread protests by the lawyers against Mrs. Bedi at her office as they believed that their colleague was wrongfully arrested and that a lawyer could not be handcuffed. A scuffle between the police erupted which was followed by a lathi charge on the protesting lawyers at the Tis Hazari Court. The agitation escalated on 17th February when a mob lead by Congress Corporator Rajesh Yadav attacked the protesting lawyers, among chants in support of Mrs. Bedi.
A two judge committee led by DP Wadhwa, a sitting judge of the Delhi High Court, investigated into the events and found major police lapses. While the arrest of Rajesh Agnihotri was justified, the handcuffing by the police was deemed illegal. The police action was dubbed “indiscriminate and unjustified”.
The committee declared that Bedi had connived with the Congress Corporator in organizing and transporting the mob which attacked the protesting lawyers. After the report of the committee censured her, she was transferred out of Delhi and the committee had recommended that she should not be given a higher post in Delhi.
The protesting lawyers see this as an insult of the judgement and have warned BJP with boycott and withdrawal of election support from the sympathising lawyers and their families. A small faction of lawyers burnt her effigy on Thursday and the Tis Hazari Court Bar Association is demanding that Kiran Bedi should make her stand clear about the entire incident after which the lawyers would take a call on the future course of action.
The allegations of her improper leave of absence in Goa, and Mizoram, where she was accused of improperly getting her daughter a seat for MBBS under the Mizoram Quota, makes one question the authenticity of her speech when she joined BJP. Kiran Bedi kept referring to her glorious service record and the various social causes she was involved in, without addressing the glaring questions comprehensively.
Why didn’t she have a decisive answer about her change in opinion about Mr Modi – from being a critic and asking questions on the 2002 riots, to saying that it was Modi’s “inspirational leadership” which made her join the BJP? What made Kiran Bedi, who mocked the politicians in Ramlila Maidan as people who wear masks and hide, and stated that the reason for the split of India Against Corruption was the forming of Kejriwal’s political party, join BJP?
While the praises for RSS, the change of priorities from corruption to “development” and “progress”, and the resurfacing allegations raise a cause for concern about Kiran Bedi’s suitability for the position, they only get exacerbated by her silence and reluctance to talk and debate.