Kiran Bedi is a woman I’ve grown up idolizing even though I’d never even watched any of her interviews (might have just caught a fleeting glance of her photos on DD1 aired on the nightly news from time to time) until I was sixteen or so. She was pure folklore as passed down by my parents to me and my siblings. They called her “Crane Bedi” for the tow away’s that she so stringently enforced on vehicles parked illicitly on the capital’s streets without discrimination. She once famously even had Indira Gandhi’s (then prime minister) vehicle towed away for a traffic violation! This was the precedent set by the first woman IPS officer in India.
I’m a child of the era when India saw the birth of the private electronic media industry which soon and expectedly witnessed an explosion in media outlets which burgeoned with gusto and which was unsurprising to many as they needed to cater to the 1.2 billion strong populace cleanly demarcated by languages, ideologies, political persuasions et.al. With the increased presence and the increased coverage (24*7) I was then able to follow this woman’s body of work a little more closely (interviews, exploits etc.). This constant exposure to her rhetoric and disposition/demeanor on television only served to reinforce the prejudice I already had for her the seeds of which had been sown by my parents during my formative years.
The notions of her being extremely passionate in bringing about a positive change in society by her contributions (e.g. Her Tihar reform exploits), being a fighter to the core (simply being a woman in a man”s world and accomplishing that much against all odds), having a moral compass leading her in the direction of service to humanity (North Delhi drug rehabilitation campaign) and last but not least that her fearlessness in a society that has scoundrels at every turn ready to mutilate the soul of any man who challenged the status quo let alone a woman were all reasons for my exalted opinion of her (lawyer’s strike and the arrests of politicians from both BJP and Congress(I)). She even was a Junior national tennis champion and was apparently eligible for entry into the Junior Wimbledon tourney!
She reminds me very much of a gentleman named Kapil Dev Ramlal Nikhanj. The poster boy of Indian cricket (Why even Indian Sport as a whole) for a decade and half and still a poster boy for how a sports person should acquit themselves on the field who always had a refreshing candor in the way he spoke and a honesty of opinion and purpose that is almost extinct today. He was sadly very often misquoted, his candid remarks easy prey for the malicious to distort and disseminate. He wore his heart on his sleeve and followed his instinct, an attempt was made to run him over for trying to pioneer a revolutionary concept (You all know by whom) but he proved indomitable still standing upright and as towering as ever albeit reduced to a pariah. Very few have had an honest work ethic like his and he and Ms. Bedi share and practice these common traits and ideals in their respective professional domains. Both of them though not great orators by any stretch of the imagination and naturally therefore vulnerable to gaffes while in the midst of a passionate delivery.
A few other women have had as profound an impact on me as Ms. Bedi and I’d be remiss if I did not at least salute these great influences. The first and the biggest influence is my mother (a doctor by profession and a lion and mother Teresa melded together at heart) and the second being Ms. Hanan Ashravi (PLO spokesperson/minister). Both these women ridiculously intelligent, stupendously empathetic to others pain and towering in persona and presence (at times a bit too much for some men!).
That said, Ms. Bedi has been a soft target for polity-scoundrels (political low-lifes), male chauvinists, anarchists, misogynists and all other conceivable enemies of society. Corruption is all pervasive and has many vile faces. A person parking his/her vehicle in a NO-PARKING spot/strip is morally corrupt not to mention devoid of common and civic sense. Ms. Bedi chose to become a part of the representative body of the civil society movement spearheaded by Anna Hazare as she felt that she could influence positive change by participating in a democratic process of protest against corruption. She has stood for the virtue of self -discipline for decades and she wanted to join this crusade against the institutionalization of indiscipline which ultimately breeds institutionalized corruption.
It is so unfortunate and even shameful that every word of hers has been parsed, dissected and some sections of the media have also gone even as far as using sound bites (read short clips of her speeches without the full context) to show her in a negative light. All of this sensationalism to garner market share. Again, a case of being morally bankrupt and journalistically corrupt!
“Small rapes” has created a firestorm of emotion from the bigoted, plastic outcry from lobbies that have been feeling the heat from this anti corruption crusade and most of all the “ratings junkie” media trying to extrapolate every ounce of sensationalism from her statements to attract as much viewership as possible to their respective portals. I’m in no way suggesting that all the journalists and news outlets are engaged in this rat race of yellow journalism. I appreciate all those who have shown objectivity in their reporting and still espouse rectitude and adhere to the highest standards of journalistic ethics. Then there are others who resort to repugnant tactics of distortion and mischaracterization to ensure payoffs in ratings and revenue. Little do these journalistic bodies understand that such acts of misreportage although fiscally expedient in the short term will backfire in the long run and more importantly banishes not only individuals and their invaluable thoughts from the public discourse but also jeopardizes the very moral fabric of the nation that these journalists set out to protect when they embark on their journalistic endeavors.
Ms. Bedi misspoke, plain and simple. A person of her parts would never ever term a rape as small or inconsequential. After all, she is fighting against these forms of corruption as well; a rape is nothing but a reprehensible act of a corrupt and depraved soul. “Small rapes” though do happen every single time our media and other journalistic outlets decide to play games of one-upmanship at the expense of national icons fighting for a better India.