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Our movement has just begun, says Kiran Bedi

Last updated on: April 21, 2011 09:51 IST

Our movement has just begun, says Kiran Bedi

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Sriram Balasubramanian

Anna Hazare's close aide and former 'super cop' Kiran Bedi tells Sriram Balasubramanian that their anti-corruption movement has just begun, and gives full credit to the youth and people of India who made it 'their' movement.

It's been an intense past few weeks for the Indian people. Having being an integral part of the Anna Hazare movement, what are your first reactions?

I am truly blessed to be a part of a movement to save my country from the clutches of the dishonest high and mighty. With Anna Hazare in the lead we (Arvind Kejriwal and myself) were sure to achieve a break through. However it's just the beginning. And long way to go with Herculean challenges. But I am so grateful to the Almighty that it has become a national reform movement.

 

Nation-first attitude is synonymous with someone like Kiran Bedi. Was this ingrained in you since you were a child or it intensified as you grew up the ranks in the police force?

Giving and sacrificing was part of the upbringing instilled by family values from parents. The Indian Police Service attracted me for the power of prevention and service, rather than power to order.

What are some of the fiercest challenges that you faced during your tenure in the police force?

There always serious shortage of resources to meet people's essential minimum needs of service and security. Also many a times apathetic leadership whose priorities were distorted. And they would obstruct any change. Or even sabotage whatever good can happen.

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Image: Anna Hazare displays a note from the government to his supporters as Kiran Bedi watches in New Delhi
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters
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'PM's assurance didn't work'

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Coming to the Anna Hazare movement, how did it all start? There were numerous rallies that happened before the Delhi summit?

The drafting of the Jan Lokpal bill started last year. Lots of workshops were held to generate ideas and awareness.

Once drafted it was time to launch it. We were touring around the country and explaining to people the basic structure of the bill. It was counter to the very meek and weak law drafted by the government.

In fact the government was in a rush to pass this as law and thought it would get away with it. To our good fortune this time they were caught in the act. The one drafted by us was the kind of law the situation demanded. But the government paid no heed to it.

We set deadlines yet got no response. Only when Anna made known his intention to go on a fast that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited us for talks. PM told us that 'Anna may not go on fast as government will look into it.'

But this assurance appeared only to be buying time to tide over the elections. The PM was reluctant to set any time frame either.

Anna refused to give in. He wrote again to the PM to appoint a joint committee to draft the bill in view of the uniqueness of the situation. But to no avail.

This demand had been persistently refused by the government. It's then that Anna went ahead with the fast. And then all hell broke loose.


Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

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'Full credit goes to the people of India'

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How did you feel during the four days of fasting by Anna Hazare in terms of the response from the people of India? Did you expect such an emphatic response?

This was my first such experience. I never expected such an overwhelming and spontaneous connect of the movement nation wide. Full credit goes to the youth and people of India who made it their own movement.

The Jan Lokpal bill in its current form seems to be too vague and it also seems to have too many powers to itself in terms of prosecuting people etc (i.e. subvert the judiciary). Are you open to suggestions? How do you plan to incorporate new ideas?

We are absolutely open without compromising the basic structure, i.e a Jan Lokpal independent of political and bureaucratic control. Rest is a matter of detail.  The draft is the result of open and internet consultations. It's still open. Now regional consultations will take it forward.


Image: Supporters of social activist Hazare shout slogans during a campaign against corruption in New Delhi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
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'This was less dangerous than the plunder of the nation'

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Critics seem to be skeptical about how you plan to move forward from here. How do you plan to sustain the movement till the Jan Lokpal bill is actually passed?

Time will unfold. There are plans. 

Furthermore, some of them even suggest that such fasts can lead to a dangerous precedent of undermining democracy. You think this is the need of the hour? Your comments.


This was less dangerous than the plunder and loot of the nation for the last 62 years. If not looted, India would have been the richest country in the world. Each Indian would have had social security, with no dearth of infrastructure.

Is Anna Hazare's movement or India against corruption campaign going to take electoral reforms as its next agenda?

Yes. Appears to. And ought to. It is essential if we truly have to clean up the system of criminalisation of politics.
 
Do you feel disappointed not being part of the four member civic society team in the committee?

The team is very capable and skilled. The best heavy weights were needed to be in the ring. It was my right decision to be not in this.


Image: A supporter wearing a paper poster of social activist Hazare attends a protest against corruption in New Delhi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
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'He is the Gandhiji of modern times'

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How do you see Annaji as? A role model or a philosopher or an icon?

He is the Gandhiji of modern times. I gave him this name for the first time when I and Arvind were addressing a rally with Anna in Nanded. I told the audience that we are going to take the Gandhi of Maharashtra to Delhi!
 
Super cop, anti-corruption crusader. What's next for Kiran Bedi?

I don't know. I flow with nature. And God has His own ways. My duty is to walk those to the best of my ability.


Image: Social activist Anna Hazare gestures to photographers after attending a joint Lokpal panel meeting in New Delhi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
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