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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 75

‘Tokenism’ Not For Kiran Bedi

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

It is the politicians’ stock in trade to make mountain out of a molehill and to trivialise the most serious. Thus, even a relatively lesser tragedy, man-made or natural, is always ‘unprecedented’, as is the loss that follows from it. Allegations of various sorts are traded frequently between two political rivals or rival parties, often on magnified scale, with little regard to facts and concern about seeing the logical end to the charges in a court of law.

Recently the word ‘tokenism’ was bandied about a lot after Pratibha Patil was nominated as the ruling party’s candidate for the President. Critics dubbed it as nothing but an empty gesture towards empowering women, because in their opinion she was not an apt choice for the highest post in the land and her nomination would not help mitigate the sufferings of the majority of women in India.

Those who saw her nomination as ‘tokenism’ were certainly liable to a similar charge at the time the outgoing President was nominated by the BJP-led NDA government. As a party that hardly hides its exclusiveness, the BJP nominating a Muslim candidate for the office of the President of India did appear to be nothing more than a token gesture towards the minority community. Yes, APJ Abdul Kalam’s presidency is now part of history and mulling over it here serves no purpose.

It is doubtful if Pratibha Patil’s critics have changed their opinion about ‘tokenism’ as far as she is concerned despite her comprehensive victory over the BJP-supported candidate, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who with his well-entrenched roots in the BJP could also be said to have been a ‘token’ Independent candidate.

Now ‘tokenism’ is again in circulation though in a reverse sort of way. The government has been riled for not selecting the country’s first woman IPS officer, Kiran Bedi, to head the Delhi Police. She was all set to be the first woman police commissioner in the national capital. If ‘tokenism’ in the nomination of Pratibha Patil was bad how could it be called good in the case of Kiran Bedi? The government did not fall for ‘tokenism’ this time, and elevated a male colleague, her junior to boot, as the boss of Delhi police.

All hell seems to have broken loose in the feminine world. ‘Kiran Bedi was denied the promotion only because she is a woman’ runs the theme of her vast number of supporters, and admirers---and the media. The angst at ‘male-domination’ world permeates both the genders but introspection might reveal that often the talk of ‘tokenism’ is hypocritical because in one place it is recommended while at another occasion it is bitterly opposed for more or less the same reasons.

It is said in support of Ms Bedi that Delhi with its high rate of crime against women needs a woman police officer at the top. Is that all that is needed to bringing down the rate of crime against women? The occupation of the highest post in the land by a Muslim not once but three times has made little change in the lot of the minority community (going by Rajinder Sachar report) because the problem cannot be solved with a ‘token’ presence or an individual’s elevation to a high post.

The BJP, a party always ready to shout loudly against just about anything that one of its rival parties (or government) do, did not join in the chorus on ‘denial of justice’ to her the day the government made its choice for the next police commissioner of Delhi. The BJP hesitation could well have been a clue that reservations about Ms Bedi’s suitability for the sensitive job were not restricted to one party alone, unless it had something to do with real or imaginary political predilections of the police officer.

The strong reaction in large sections of the media, especially the visual media, was a bit surprising. Television channels which allegedly deal with ‘news’ while they air ‘laughter shows’ and comedies at prime news time generously allowed Ms Bedi to lodge her protests by hurling accusations against one and all. A less privileged officer would have been immediately charged with breach of service rules or something like that and suspended. The fawning anchors and interviewers forgot, as they often do, to go beyond her self-adulation.

Her achievements may be extraordinary to get her the Magsaysay and other awards. But the selection for the top job in the police or any other department or agency, for that matter, is not decided on the basis of awards alone. One’s track record in service is a key element, including ‘field’ experience.

Anyone who worked as a journalist in Delhi 20 or 25 years ago would have been familiar with the string of controversies that inevitably accompanied Ms Bedi when she held various posts in Delhi Police. She is believed to be a rare case of a senior police officer who did not ‘qualify’ for two important medals that are routinely awarded to IPS officers in service, the medals for distinguished and meritorious services. These medals are considered crucial to one’s advancement in career.

Admirable as some of her controversial crusades were—for jail reforms and against parking offences, to mention a few—the sum of her service career has been controversies and more controversies and her emergence as an officer who interpreted ‘discipline’ her own way. There was a time in Delhi when the lower courts would remain paralysed for months because of what the lawyers perceived as her highhandedness.

It has to be said that her unconventional style of functioning has endeared her to many but raised eye brows within the police force. Some of her acts did not appear to her superiors to be in tune with the conduct of a responsible senior police officer. During one of her postings out of Delhi her daughter’s career as a medical student was threatened and the blame was laid at the door of Ms Bedi.

Some of her superiors might not have been as bright as she obviously is but a force like the police expect the officers to stay within the bounds of discipline and the code of service rules. They have to work within the ‘system’.

Talking out of turn will not demolish a system that may look rotten to many. Ms Bedi is lucky that she did not invite much trouble in her career for frequently responding more to her heart than her head in the discharge of her duties.

- Syndicate Features -

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