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Who Is Hiding Now? – Delhi Lawyers Protest Against BJP CM Candidate

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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.

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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.

Also Read:
A Letter From Indian Women – “5 Minutes Please, Ms. Kiran Bedi”
Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Kiran Bedi

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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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