`No regrets on Ramlila incident`

Former IPS officer and social activist Kiran Bedi talks about Anna Hazare’s movement, inflated bills issue among other things with Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi on her talk show Kahiye Janab.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

Swati: Team Anna members have been under attack for different reasons. They have been accused of having discordant opinions. People have even said that it should be Team Anna members who should observe `maun vrat` (vow of silence). Now that Anna Hazare has broken his silence and has said the same things as you did, how does it feel?

Kiran Bedi: Annaji has broken his silence at the right time because this is his movement. We are only his soldiers. It was because of destiny that people from different walks of life, who wanted to fight for a similar cause, came together to commence a larger and bigger movement against corruption. And it was during this phase that Annaji joined the movement, and at that time Annaji was not spearheading it.

Swati: On this very show, Arvind Kejriwal had said that he is Anna`s Hanuman. How do you define yourself?

Kiran Bedi: I call myself only a soldier or let’s say a policewoman. During the initial phase of the movement, Annaji joined as a member. It was almost 13 months back when Arvind came to me and asked for my support, so that we could file an FIR against the CWG scam, which was very much hyped by the media.

The 2G spectrum scam had then still not come into the limelight. He had also decided to release it in the press. I was supposed to attend a girl’s convention in Ludhiana on the same day when Arvind was supposed to file the FIR. But later I decided to join Arvind as it was a cause which was to a great extent related to my life. I had written and spoken about it in my own way.

A press conference, organised by NGO ‘India Against Corruption’, was addressed by just the two of us. There was no one else associated with it. But our decision to file the FIR brought in people from different spheres of life. Sri Sri Ravishankar, Anna Hazareji and many others joined in and a combined FIR was lodged.

It was then decided that Annaji would spearhead the fight as only Anna could fast among all of us. He had been fasting for various causes. And Arvind very well knew about Anna`s strength and the miracle finally happened. We never knew that the fast that began on April 05 would become a mass movement.

Swati: So, this is a retrospection of events?

Kiran: Yes, it is.

Swati: Do you in anyway regret mocking the politicians at Ramlila Maidan?

Kiran: No. One should not regret speaking the truth. You need a lot of inner strength as well as anguish to speak the truth.

Swati: So are you still anguished?

Kiran: Yes, 100 percent. I never have a problem in speaking the truth. At that particular time when the incident happened, Anna`s fast had already entered the 11th day. Parliament was being adjourned again and again and politicians coming in with resolution spoke a different language behind closed doors and uttered an entirely different version outside. We are common people, we don`t understand electoral language and at that time when I was standing on the stage it was that anguish that came out and I only enacted these politicians’ behaviour.

Swati: The enactment was quiet striking. No one will ever forget.

Kiran: Yes it was. Neither they nor I will ever forget it.

Swati: People say that you don`t practice what you preach, especially on the inflated bills issue.

Kiran: It is a complete non-issue which has been unnecessarily inflated beyond limits.
Business class travels are a part of the invitation I receive from the organisers of the event I have to address. I get associated with the cause, I don`t charge for it from the organisers. Yes, if I am given a speaking fee, it goes to my NGO. In fact, all the award money, royalties of my book go to my NGO. The travel agency that books my tickets is given the amount. Then it`s my choice whether to travel business class or not. I travel economy despite entitlement to business class to ensure that savings remain with the NGO. The difference remains with the NGO and the amount is used when I travel for a cause where the organisers cannot even afford my travelling cost. For example, I travelled a lot during ‘India Against Corruption’ movement. Where did the money come from? It was my own savings. I never asked anything from Anna or Arvind Kejriwal. Now tell me where does the question of fraud or inflated bill come from? It`s just savings. Now if savings is projected as fraud or inflated bills, what do I say about that?

Now the question is why did the travel agent quit? He is a businessman. Business is his daily bread. He would not leave his daily bread and rather fight the allegations, or come and join the movement. So he resigned and asked me to get my tickets done from a different travel agent. It`s just that the issue is being blown out of proportion.

Swati: Digvijay Singh has commented on the inflated bills issue. What is your say?

Kiran: I have not replied to his comments.

Swati: Why?

Kiran: It`s his right to say and my right not to say. When you reply, you tend to fall to that level and I don`t want to fall that low.

Swati: Anna has once again warned the government and asked it to pass the Lokpal Bill during the Winter Session. Once again, you have come face-to-face with the Congress.

Kiran: There is nothing to do with the Congress. It could have been BJP or any other party at the Centre. Since the ruling party enjoys majority, can’t it bring in a law?

Swati: As it happened in Uttarakhand.

Kiran: Yes, exactly the same way. A ruling party can call in a special session, it can bring ordinance. Team Anna is only saying that the ruling party can do anything if it wants to, including extending the session. It is the government’s responsibility to act when the entire nation is standing against corruption and when the PM is clearly saying that it is a matter of serious concern. Didn’t they go against all odds to bring in the Nuclear Bill, only because they wanted to?

Swati: Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev have been attacked and now it`s alleged that Sri Sri Ravishankar is plan C of RSS-BJP? Are you in anyway associated with BJP-RSS?

Kiran: Those who backed the movement were Indians. There was no barrier. Anybody could come and support the cause. No politics was allowed from Anna`s stage nor was any politician involved in the organisation. The organisation was totally with the civil society and was non-political. If someone comes up and says he or she was associated with the movement, it`s up to him or her to evaluate this claim.

Adaptation: Liji Varghese

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