Kiran Bedi:

We were four sisters no brothers were a totally different family in the whole country- all four girls playing tennis, of which three at a time were playing competitive tennis, even against each other sometimes. . I think we were the first few girls playing in shorts. We were the first ones probably. University was co-ed. Tennis was all co-ed because I was traveling with boys all the time. Sometimes I was all alone traveling with a very big contingent of boys. Family was perfectly okay with it- Hundred percent! I am a hundred percent product of the mindset of my mother and father.

The sky is the limit. It was - you can go as far as you want, there's no limit. Think as far, plan as far, vision as far, work towards it. So, sky was the limit. So, at the age of 16, I won the national championship in girls, 22, I won the Asian tennis title, 22 I joined the Indian Police Service. For me,  I had reached the top- as far as a girl was concerned.

We go for gender sensitization programs later on in life. It's too late my friend. It begins with co-ed education, but it isn't to fall in love, but to play together. To compete with each other on equal terms. And then at times, have a girls issue or a boys issue- you can have a sprint separately, but when it comes to play, play team games. That's the best way. So, I have played team games and I have beaten the boys at the team games. See, the point is I did not have to prove on stamina- I was a Tennis champion already. I was a champion beating the boys at the academy too, so when it came to marathon races, I was beating the boys at marathon races. I was better than the boys in many horse riding competitions. Because, I was a sports girl. But there wasn't jealousy or resentment because I was still not professionally competing with them that way. So they were friends. They were excellent and outstanding friends, and I have such great camaraderie with them. Well, they took it sportingly.

Competitive tennis was really a ground for training. I could take on so much of stress- I could take on so much of envy. I could take a bad call. I could take a defeat. Savor a victory, and get ready for tomorrow again. Do it all over again. So, I was in a fit mental state of mind, physical state of mind, to always start all over again. Never to take a bad call unsaid. I would walk up to the umpire to say: I think that was a bad call. And he would say: Overruled. I would go back and play but I had already let him know that he had given a bad call. So I had the confidence to say that I won't take anything lying down. But if somebody was misjudged, and even if I would lose, I would still go up to the empire and say, that was right, it wasn't out. So, I would give my opponent the due. So, the sense of equity and justice and fighting for the right - even if I would lose or win- didn't matter- the right methodology was my passion. So these things came from my childhood. So I didn't have to learn new managerial attitudes and leadership traits in this academy- which they never taught us- so what happened with me was- it wasn't overconfidence- but tremendous self-confidence of who I am, what I want to be, and what I want to do with my life. And what am I working hard for? What have my parents brought me up for? What is this education for? And what did I achieve all this for- is finally in the end, to work for my country.

The Indian Police Service attracted me, because to me a cop stood straight to do justice. For me a cop straightaway did injustice. I saw him doing injustice. And I said: That's the potential of this cop, he can do so much of justice.

This country's police has never had sustained police courageous leadership. Never had it, for the reason the politician will move him or her instantly. Politics is above the law. It's only getting caught red-handed bits and pieces. By and large, its above the law, with the result that since politics as a profession became above the law, they took along with them those they wanted to use, and they also became above the law. They could not be above the law without the instruments which could bring them under the law. So they had to take them along. How do you take them along? By these patronages: promotions, transfers and postings. These three key things, and saving them when they do something illegal, and protecting them wrongly. Wrong protection, wrong promotion, wrong posting.

My belief, my practice, my internal spirituality is that if I take up a task, I do it fully, and then I burn all the bridges around it because that must survive. My focus is entirely on that. When I say burn the bridges around it- I mean for me that's the focus, that's what gets my attention, I have no temptation beyond it. What happens next I do not know, but this must get its due.

Mizoram when I went there- there were two areas of crime: one was simple crime. Crimes- property crimes, drug related crimes, and other was insurgency.  There was an active insurgency group which was getting stronger and stronger by the day. SO there were two aspects: one was normal crime, the other was abnormal crime. And I had both strategies- one to handle normal crime, the other to handle abnormal crime. On the abnormal crime- I had two bosses during my tenure there. One boss was totally with me- he was a Mizo, he understood and he was a wonderful officer. In my career I've had a few outstanding individuals whom I really remember and my book, "I Dare," documents it. It recalls some of the good people that I had. I could count them on my fingertips. During his time, I really flourished. I put together a program to handle that abnormal crime-Terrorism- where they would get at the policemen. They would hide in the bushes. They wanted to control the area to themselves. They wanted to have an uprising for the autonomy of those villages or zones. It was the same kinds of terrorist attacks. The only difference was that they weren't fidayeen or they wouldn't use technology, but they would kill policemen, people. They would smuggle in arms- Because they wanted to keep certain areas to themselves and rule those areas through extortion.

Our strategy was Multi. Economic. Totally offering developmental, in which policing played a role. If security is good quality, terrorism becomes more difficult. But if security has gaps and vacuums, then terrorism can thrive- will make its inroads, and achieve its limited goals. So, in two years time, by the time I was leaving that state, they had signed a peace agreement with the government, because we had an edge over them, not by killing them, but by gradually integrating them. Humanizing them, but also having the edge of fire-power. Saying- we will take you on- so the fear was so high, fear of getting caught was so high- fear of getting shot dead was so high- but not for the intention of getting any brownies, but with the intention to integrate for a larger cause.
So, the message never was that we are all out to murder and kill for rewards, but we are here to do our duty with integrity. I think terrorists also understand the way we fight- why we fight- police intentions. But it worked.

I was at the United Nations when Iraq happened. My assessment is that it was a tremendous mis-assessment.  And I think one of the greatest- for which the United Nations will always be held responsible for - failure to have acted- and let the United States have a free hand in Iraq. If it was needed, it should have been UN going to Iraq, not USA. But USA had the purse string and the power and - I think he really arm-twisted Kofi Annan tremendously to do what they did in Iraq. And it paid the world very very dearly. And I saw it happen- so I was a Police Advisor but there was no police mission in Iraq. I would have stepped in if there was a police mission in Iraq and if the UN had gone. UN was never allowed by the members of the security council to go. Its the 5P that governs and in the 5P, United States is the dominant P. And in that P, China plays neutral, Russia plays neutral ... so it doesn't work. So they really had their way, and rest of the nominees of the twelve members didn't work. So it was really a misadventure. Tremendous misadventure. And all of us are paying for it.

United Nations had any number of opportunities to put its foot down. I think at the most it would have cost Kofi Annan his job. So what? SO what? He was hoping for the next term, which he got. General assembly could have voted against. General assembly also did not. He could have called a special session of the general assembly- which eh did not on Iraq, because he was truly neutral. But I think that's one act of history which would never ever be forgiven, when our children sit down and analyze history. It was the biggest lie and the most expensive misadventure for America and for the rest of the world, and this is a major reason for terrorism going truly worldwide.

United Nations can still go in Iraq. What stops them? They can still go. What stops the General Assembly as a whole to vote that America should be part of the peacekeeping effort not the only country.

Look at Liberia- it goes to the credit of the United Nations. It today has a democratic elected govt. Has a woman as a president. After Charles Taylor left, Liberia was burning. We went when Liberia was burning- I was part of that whole mission plan. Liberia today is a safe democratic country with a woman as head of the state. And we trained Liberaian force. It's a neutral force. It's a gender sensitive force. It's a gender participating force. We created them. Trained them. India was part of the peacekeeping force. Whenever it's an international community that trains a police force, that force becomes neutral.

India's police force is not Sikh, Hindu, Muslim or Christian at all. In fact, Indian police is one of the finestly secular police force. It's these individual aberrations- at that time an individual act or an individual leader or politician by which they go astray, but otherwise they're not. In fact, the Indian police force is one of the finest secular police forces. So you may have had three Sikh riots, or the Godhara incident or a Nandigram, today you've had three- but by and large- when it comes to elections, or national issues, Indian Police Service will not side with religion or caste. It will stand by the larger service.

And look, these three incidents have been so badly commented, criticized- so that's the strength of the Indian media too. So Indian media doesn't spare. You may also have favorites on that side, but its an open debate. An individual may kill- but see the condemnation it gets along the length and breadth- and look at the judiciary that punishes you also, hauls you up- it may take ten years to punish you. But you are before the court, and the sword is hanging on your head. These are strengths of the Indian Democracy. That's what is sustaining this Indian Democracy. That's why Indian democracy is today alive. Absolutely, It's a vibrant democracy. And it's becoming a very questioning democracy. But It just needs to be questioning more. And the challenge to this democracy is rising by the day.

As Right to Information is used more and more everyday- at least somewhere the fear of god is coming in. Its very good. So the more and more people use it, the more and more govt becomes defensive- the more and more RTI is used, greater the transparency, but its a long distance to go. But its a good journey covered, which is very good. We've had some very good activists leading this. We've had Arvind Kejriwal leading it, Aruna Roy leading it. Medha Katkar leading it. And Arvind's entire team of Parivartan leading it. It's an amazing movement, which did the trick.
The main thing is that the individuals who are getting appointed as the Right to Information Commissioners, are the retired bureaucrats. That's where I wish they wouldn't be. I wish they were activists. I wish they were sociologists. I wish they were academicians. I wish they were non-service people who wouldn't protect the service again. If that new change comes, and if we don't only have a bureaucrat till yesterday appointed as the commissioner today - to me that's not the best. To me- I wish those posts were made non-service. Out of the bureaucracy- things would then be dramatically different.

, I visited American prisons, and what I have really noted is that the American prison system is afraid of its own prisoners. It's based on fear. Fear, and therefore their major priority is security. When you have fear, then you only heighten security. If the basis is fear, the prison staff is afraid of the prisoner, therefore prisoner must stay locked. Okay? So you bind his legs, you bind his feet. You keep him to his cell hole, don't even open him, because you're afraid, as he comes out, he leaps at you. Because he is out to take revenge. So, it's based on fear. Every time you're speeding higher and higher on security, whether it's electronic security, or physical security or architectural security- so it's security, with the result that by the time he comes out, he's coming out of a cage- and his animal instincts are heightened, and he's a bigger threat to society. That's why he's re-offending. And as soon as he's out, he has to be out as part of his human rights, but his propensity towards repeating crime, going back to drugs, going back to violence against women, or rapists, or other issues, is very high. Therefore, there's a higher cost to getting him back, to catch him early, but you can only catch him early after evidence, so there's again surveillance mounted on him, there's a cost involved, to get him after he commits an offence. So, its a very expensive system. Why? Because it's based on fear. And whole focus is security.

Indian prison system, when it changed, during my time, was not based on fear. And it was not based on only security. It was based on: Give them trust, don't lower your guard, security is the priority, but reform is the biggest priority. When they go back, they don't repeat it.
So, see the whole mission statement is changed. So we never lowered our guard- nobody ran away from the prison, but we started to communicate with them. Humanizing them by talking to them. In American prisons they don't talk to each other. They talk at each other. We started to talk- not even to- with each other. I, as a senior most, interacted with prisoners in any number of opportunities. Sometimes in groups, and sometimes one to one - basically to take the sting out of the Cobras, because if I let them be, they will bite me- bite me, means bite the society. So I've to take the bite out. So, I wasn't afraid, so I let them know- I'm not afraid of you. You know, what's wrong with you? You're not an animal. You're a human being with a head and a heart, and shoulders and hands like me. As human as I am. So, lets work together. So we started to work with the prisoners. We started to humanize the whole atmosphere without lowering our guards. We still had the towers. But we didn't tell them that the towers are watching you, or that I'm afraid of yo and my guard is looking at you. We didn't - I never worked in uniform. Deliberately, didn't work in uniform. So when we started to communicate, we're no afraid, we're here to work with each other.

You see, I've no reason. If I'm afraid, that message goes. If I would walk with guards, have weapons around me, keep them locked and then talk through the bars. That means I'm afraid. But if I let the bars open and talk to them. That means I'm not afraid. You have no reason to be afraid- you have to drive home that point- but there's always a risk element. There's risk both ways: If you keep them locked up, and there is a risk, he will grab at you, or he'll grab at you after you've left the prison. He'll grab at you. So the mission statement of the prison was reform without compromising security.

came around. Beautifully. That's what changed it. But then you've got to not just say the words, you've got to convert it into deeds. And the Deed was- What changes a closed institution into an ashram is education, healthcare, city management, care, concern, listening, spirituality, tolerance, self help, self service, camaraderie, peace, no drugs, no smoking, vegetarian clean food, integrity, non-violence- all those things were practiced by every one of us from the constable to the Inspector General. When each one of us practiced it visibly, willingly, walking it out- that's all mentioned in my book- it's always possible- all the details are inside- so those are the- Panchayat system inside, the Gandhian way of life- is practiced inside Tihar prison. The simple Gandhian way. All that Gandhi stood for entered the Indian prison system. So naturally and culturaly, I did not need to be trained in a prison institute, it was right there within me. I know it. What works. Because I knew it had worked in my country. So it worked, and that's how it started to change. And that's when I caught the world's attention, because more than two hundred of the foreign prisoners were writing to everybody overseas- that in our prison, this is what's happening, this is what's happening- because German was being taught, French was being taught- English, Swahili- at Tihar- we had all language classes- we had transistors blaring- we had  a audio closed circuit television blaring programs - We made them see Wimledon, Football, we made them see cricket matches- See sports, see a good movie, see a good program. I don't see this happening in any prison around the world at all.

If we had continued for one more year at that time, had they not let me go after two years, this program would have been a world training program. They let me go because it was too envious- Just to build so much envy and insecurity that in two years she got a Raman Magsasay, in three years she may not be vying for a Nobel. This is the terrible agony of this country- is that, the moment somebody starts contributing to even raise the status- its the individual- they say, finish the individual- its not the country. There is sometimes in our culture- that inhibits- that's why I was hunted out of the prison. You're never sent out of a prison posting. You ask for release. Here I was said: Go! And go where- to that one paper assignment that I told you. But one more year if I had spent inside that prison, do you know what would have happened? I'd have created systems inside that prison, where the prisoner would have paid for his imprisonment. He would have earned within. He would have learnt a skill, and he would have paid for his imprisonment. That means if a hundred crores are being spent for my prison, I would have made sure the ten thousand prisoners would have earned the money- to pay for the victim, to pay for their children's education, and pay for the state. I would have created polytechnics inside. I was already on MOU's with certain Sriram Institutes and polytechnics- to say I give you space, I give you human resource- lets do a joint venture. Then they said, the only hitch was, that Kiran, we want to sign the MOU with the state, and not with an individual, because if you go, what happens. I said: You're so right! But, where's the state? Who do I go to? How long will it take? And by the time they told me to go out.

But still in Tihar jail- all the programs- like Vipaasana meditation- is unbroken. It's continuing. That's very very good news. Computer training programs- unbroken. Library's continuing to functin. IGNOU- Indira Gandhi National Open School- all those institutions that were built - continue to go. Many of these NGOs continue to go. But, one program that's gone for a six, is where everybody studied for two hours 9-11, which created it into an Ashram, is gone. Now, if the prisoners are not interested in education, then they may not. But duirng that time, really the foundation of that ashram was that during 9-11 everybody went to school inside the prison. Into a classroom of their level. If somebody was illiterate, they go to class 1- with books of class 1, and all these books were donated from schools from outside. I never spent any money. Garbage was being turned into manure. We earned money. Now garbage is being thrown out and money is being spent to throw out garbage. No manuring. And books are no more coming in as donation. And the prison is not a school. But the good programs which were institunalized will stay. I too am an NGO in the prison. I look after the children of the prison, which is the best program in the country today. Oprah Winfrey actually covered our program of India Vision Foundation- children program of the prison. It was a film made by discovery. So Discovery ran the program on the Discovery channel.

These are the children of the women who are inside the prison. Children who've gone inside with their mothers, who are incarcerated. Because Indian prison is the rare prison which allows mothers to take their children, if they are insecure outside. They are allowed to keep them till they're the age of 5. But since we're running a nursery school now, we take the child out now to a boarding school, into a mainstream school at the age of 4 or even 3. And the mothers love to leave them with us because their children are getting the best of education. My 1st batch of children will now be in the 11th standard shortly- Assissi convent and other convents- they may have a mother in jail, but they're are the brightest girls for us. So such programs have continued. Tha's India Vision Foundation and Navjyoti. It's very collaborative.

See, tragically, the police initiatives are still reactive. They're not pro-active. You wait for a woman to come and complain to you. You don't go out to look at the ruffians. You don't go out to look at the deviants. You don't go out to send the dropouts back to school. You are not out to prevent. So, it's still very very reactionary. It's a tragedy.
Victimology is still not developed in this country. Victim doesn't get any compensation either. She has no defense too. She depends on the Sarkaari prosecutor who may or may not perform.

That sensitivity of the police leadership cannot come, because, as I said, because they are gradually getting more and more politically dependent. Leadership which is politically dependent will not be sensitive to people. Because sensitive to people, drives them away from political dependence. Common man is the last priority in that.

Women, NGO's are a very big movement in the country. Women NGOs are a very big movement. It's a reactive compulsive force coming from- by forced training, and human rights movements and the media exposure that is what's keeping- and the fear of judiciary- and the fear of NGO movement- that is keeping the police on track. And I'm glad it is. There are of course individual police officers, sensitive- but not as a system. If it was a system, then this would all become bonus- the NGOs women and the judiciary- would be bonus. At the moment, it's a balancer. But the women's movement in India is huge. The National women's commission- the state women's commissions. I think they're all plationying a very good role. Somebody's picking something- At least there's some bank to fall on , some shore to go to.
These are all now anchors. It all depends, which anchor you want to choose, which anchor you're aware of. Police could be an anchor, but it's not in the Indian system.
The women is not sure, in the iNdian Police System, that if she goes to a Police Station, she will instantly get sensitive response. She may not. She may or may not. I can't say as a woman police- that she will get. She may or she may not.

Actually, that's been a bankruptcy- University Research. Had they not been bankrupt in this area of research India would have had any number of reseacrh studies to prove why aren't these things is happening. Police has been closed door, and University has not taken up this as a socail science challenge- research. They've never invested enough into it, so there's a drought. So I am just identifying this drought, and now we're going to start watering it from Dec 12,13, 14- holding the first National workshop, bringing the university and Police together. Why can't we work together? So encourage research, fund research, encourage social science research and develop research - two three national studies per year to put it to the community- put it before the nation- why doesn't the police register FIRs(police reports by people). Why is police reforms taking a back seat? What extent is the leadership performing or not performing. That's national research. Maybe we have research coming from South India, North India. Lets see the results, and put it to the nation. That's the first step we take in Dec, then we carry it forward. I'll initiate it this year.

To me, I think having a loud conscience probably is the presence of god. But feeling it, living with it rightly, is the spiritual way of life. Idols make the symbols. Focusses of attention. Focusses of concentration. But I think finally, the mission statement is: walk the spiritual path. Because all idols stood for the righteous path. That's a symbol. For instance, if you look at your mother's picture, mummy may not be there, but she's inspiring you to go on. When you look at your mother's picture, it's not the worship of the picture, it is the recall of what that stands for.

Let no woman in this country think herself less than anybody else. On the contrary she probably has greater energy within, if she understands it. She can change this country. She can change the face of this country provided she believes in herself. Today, if there can be a remarkable powerful change agent for this country, towards larger justice, it has to be the woman. Because she is a victim. So she has to stop being a victim and start becoming energy herself to say- I will lead my life in a manner which is not victimized. Whether she's in the field of agriculture, whether she's in the field of education, whether she's in the field of law enforcement, or she's a volunteer social worker. If she puts her energy and says I'm going to take my destiny in my own hands, I'm going to live my life on my terms, and I'm going to contribute to nation building, so that no girl child in this country is considered a liability- because I'm not!
So I want this kind of a movement to start in this country where a woman says: I'm blessed that I'm a woman.

back...

Leila Seth:

I finished school in Darjeeling in 1946. I was in a school which was only for girls. In fact that was quite common in those days. There were very few mixed schools. It was a missionary school- Loretto convent- those were the good schools in those days- the missionary schools. My brothers went to St. Pauls. And I came 1st in all of West Bengal- those days undivided India. Then I went to college in Calcutta. I was there about 2-3 years and then I got married at the age of 20.

I was introduced. It was semi-arranged, in the way I met my husband, as I met many other young men with the intention that there might be a possible match. Then we corresponded with each other for over a year. Then he came to Calcutta. And we went  out together, so it was a suggested match- and also I had a choice- a decision- whether I wanted to marry him or not- it was my decision. My mother I suppose wanted me to marry him- and he - although he came from a traditional family, they didn't want any dowry or anything. He himself was also actually an orphan- brought up by his uncle. So there was no real pressure in that way, even though his uncle and aunt were there. Other cousins had married into more traditional families, and probably dowries had come and things like that- but my mother didn't have anything to give, and he didn't expect anything. We just liked each other, after corresponding and meeting and all that- we decided to get married. We were comfortable with each other- we shared ideas of what we liked to do, and went out together.

I continued studies. I did my graduation after marriage- in english literature. I did my law in england when he was posted there. I went to England with him- he was working with a company called Bata-  and I always wanted to study. First I joined a montessori course- that I'll go back to India and open a montessori school. But then my husband said to me, you can do much better than this- you can do something more. Well, in a way- he encouraged me. He knew that I would like to. And he was very supportive. And then we also had to run the house- there was no large salary- or domestic help or anything and we had to look after our child- Vikram, who was 2- so I decided I would find a course that did not require too much attendance. So I bought this book called- careers encyclopedia- and I read up and found that the legal profession - they didn't mind if you didn't attend any lecture as long as you attended their dinners! The judges sat on a high table far away from you. The students sat on low tables far away from the judges. Never spoke to each other. Never met each other. Now everybody liked sitting next to me, because I didn't drink- every four would get a bottle of wine to drink- and there was more for the rest- so they were so happy, you see. They'd always say- come, come sit with us.

In fact, in the legal profession there was one woman who had become a recorder in England and there was a sensation about the whole thing. This was in 55, I think. And I passed my exam in 57. So, I was the first woman to come first in England, you know. They had never had a woman do that before. So, I had a lot of publicity as well. I was called 'mother-in-law' having one child, and I had my second child 3 months before the exams. So two times mother-in-law, that's right! It wasn't easy, but it wasn't hard. I think if you're mentally wanting to do something, then things work out. Ten days before the exams we found someone, who said she'll be  a baby minder, rather than a baby sitter. I didn't know what that meant- as opposed to a baby sitter who comes to your house, it means I drop the baby at hers. So I did that. I'd drop the baby at her house, do the exams and come back. My husband was very nice. Came home early. Would make the dinner, for when I would come back. And you know you're young and you can do a lot. You have energy to do things and you want to do things. You do them.

When I came back I did feel that many young women who would like to do things couldn't because family was holding them back. In fact, when I got married I was working as a stenographer- I needed to. But my husband's uncle said that he didn't like the idea of my working as a stenographer. So he said that he would send an equivalent amount of money that I earned after deducting bus fare, this that and the other, so that I didn't do that job. So, I did stop. But when I went to England and did law, then I told my husband if we go back and I want to work, there's no use in my doing it if I can't work, so you write to him. And he did. But his uncle was delighted, and said it's wonderful that she wants to do something like law or teaching- its different. Frankly, I don't see what's wrong in being a stenographer or a secretary, but in his mind there was that. That generation!

I still loved that idea of opening a montessori school- children will be there and my own children will be there- That whole idea was so simple. But there was too much pressure for me- why the hell did you do law for- why don't you practice? So I decided I'll practice.

There were a few (woman) lawyers in Calcutta, but very few. And all of them had some legal background, let's put it like that- either the father or uncle had been in law. I perhaps was the only one who had no legal earlier connection. Absolutely from the outside. People found that strange, that I knew nobody in the legal profession and was trying to make a breakthrough. And I was there for a year and a half, and then my husband moved to Patna. So I didn't want to leave my family, so I went to Patna with him. So, that's where it really started, because before that what I had been doing was 1 yr of apprenticeship with Mr. CHoudhary. So I was the 2nd woman practicing in Patna. There was 1 woman practicing there already, and she was quite senior, surprisingly, and she was doing well, but I didn't join her. I didn't think it was a good idea.

I had to join somebody. I didn't know a soul. Nobody would brief me. So what I did I joined a lawyer there called K.D. Chatterji. He was a civil lawyer. But there was a custom in the court those days that if someone didn't have a lawyer, if nobody was representing the accused, you could go to the court and say I want to brief as a friend of the court- Micas Curae- and if the court felt that was okay, they would give you a brief. SO, I did my criminal cases like that. Because I needed to be heard. As a civil lawyer junior to somebody no one is ever going to know that you are good- I wanted that.  If I 'm there I must do it well, otherwise there is no point. That's the whole thing. If you get into something, you must do it well, otherwise there's really no point in being there. I did a lot of criminal work as a micas curie- Eventually, I must say my name spread amongst dacoits and robbers, and they came looking for once- where is this Leila Babu- they can't think of it as a woman- so they made me into a Babu- we want Leila Babu- from there I went on. I got a lot of criminal cases.

The judges, even though they were not very modern in their approach, they were very sympathetic. In a sense, they liked the idea of a woman arguing  a case, and they would try to egg you on- Come on! Do your stuff! They didn't put you down.

 I was doing this brief- where you do a brief for Rs32 a day and you sit in that court and do all the cases in that court- so I was doing that brief, and she was appearing for a alleged rapist, and I was appearing for the prosecution. And you know I was really awkward- I didn't know how to handle such a case and didn't know how to use all these words- I must have been in my early thirties or late twenties or something- when I found how open she was when she discussed this- open intercourse, or how deep the penetration was and all that - I just thought to myself, its quite easy. It's quite clinical. You don't have to think about it- the whole scene and such- and I won that case. I was so pleased. She was a senior lawyer and all that. And of course the whole court was full- here are the only two women lawyers and they're going to argue a case against each other- on a subject like rape- you can imagine!

So you can imagine what kind of courtroom tension there was, and when I won it- I suddenly felt- why, I am as good as her- why can't I say all these things- I had prepared but the confidence to say them, I learnt during that argument which went on for two days. The strength to say it- because I was saying to myself, how will I say it, how will I describe it, you know? I knew what I wanted to say, but I was afraid inside of how actually to say it you know- in a room full of men, you know? So, it helped me that she was so vociferous in the way she attacked it- strong in her arguments.

You can argue with force only when you are convinced that the person is not guilty. I know in one case, the court gave me a brief - it was a death sentence- the person had already been sentenced to death by the law of court, and there's an understanding that even if he doesn't appeal, the sentence has to be conformed by the high court. That was the law. So it came for confirmation, and there was no one appearing for him. So I got my usual 32 Rs or something and appeared for him. And I must say it gave me a lot of problems. I read the brief from cover to cover. I couldn't find anything to say in his favor. I gave it to a senior lawyer and said, you please read it and tell me if we can find anything in it you know, and he couldn't also. So I went and argued. It was an appeal you know, and to the best of my abilities tried to find some legal aspects that I could get out of it, not factual but legal, and I failed. He must have been executed. And I can tell you I couldn't sleep for days before and days after. I felt it was my responsibility that this man doesn't get executed gets only a life sentence, but I couldn't do it. And I was really very unhappy about that whole situation. I am strongly opposed to death penalty.

When from a lawyer you become a judge- Let's put it like this, from a player you become an umpire. I felt that rightaway. And that oath you take- without fear or favor, affection or ill-will- you know those words ring in your mind all the time. You can't favor anybody, or if you know anybody you won't take the matter up. You won't hear it. So, I feel there is a certain amount. Those people who don't have high standards, probably feel they have to raise their standards a bit- because so much depends on them; people's lives, people's liberty, happiness.

Freedom of expression is a big thing- is it hurting other people's rights? I think it depends on the individual. Depends on the judge- whether he's  a very liberal judge or traditional judge. Indians on the whole now do tend to take liberty as an important aspect. But in a country where food, education, and other factors are so much more important - good schooling and there's so much poverty- I mean those things should get a lot more emphasis and do get a lot more emphasis. When people talk about life- life with dignity, life with basic necessities- I think judges would tend to emphasise on that more.

When I first became a judge- we used to have a dining room and my colleagues would say- Ah! Now that you're here you can take over when we have a tea party! I said: Certainly not! Whoever was doing it earlier will do it. I have enough catering and looking after in the house to do it here too. So that kind of- woman in the house, women in the office- yeah! and one thing - they would always introduce me- you know two or three of us became judges at the same time- two males and I- and they would introduce them- here's our new judge, and me as - here' our 'lady' judge. So I said, surely they can see my sex you know? Why do you have to introduce me as the lady judge! And I am told that the day before I was sworn in, there was a lot of talk amongst the judges, as to whom I should sit with- because normally a new judge sits with a senior judge, and normally I should have sat with the Chief Justice, but the Chief Justice was like: Oh baba! that sort of thing, thinking that I have to sit with a woman! And after court, you sit in his chamber, and doors close,  and you  drink tea together and discuss the case- so he thought, its an air-conditioned court, so the doors will be closed I suppose- I think that he thought this was too much for him! So he opted for sit with another judge, and said she should sit with somebody else! For them it was very new- they were worried about- the Lunch room conversation- they thought now this woman is coming we'll have to be very careful about what we say or do, and they were all apprehensive of a woman coming into their domain, in that sense. But you know it became fine- I was used to my brothers- and brought up in a very liberal way, so it was easy for me. Not at all- I did not feel uncomfortable at all.

Hindu women have changed considerably since independence. In the Hindu marriage act, the Hindu adoption act, the Hindu succession act, and we have made things much more equal for women- gender wise. It was hard- that is where i think the Govt. failed- that was the time in 1956 when the arguments were happening in the constituent assembly- that they should have changed the law and brought in the Uniform Civil Code. I think they didn't have the courage to do it. With the separation between Pakistan and Hindustan, there had been this massacre with hindus and muslims on both sides...

Making a law for the majority is always easier. Making a law for the minority is always difficult unless the minority wants it. And the minority always feels that our religion is in danger. And especially they were all men- hardly any women- if women were there, they might have spoken up. In fact I wrote an article about the uniform civil code and in it I had looked at these various discussions when these acts were being passed, and why they didn't make it for the muslim, which is very sad. Today even though our constitution says that we should have a uniform civil code, political vibrations being such that they don't do it.

But people have to sit back and see- we should ahve a unifrom coed- take the best of everything- what is best for women, what is best for others, and work it out. But, it's just not happening. SO the present govt says , its a BJP thing, another says it is somethign else- so it falls in the political quagmire. SO like the Christian law was totally discriminatory, because a woman if she wanted to divorce- she had to prove adultery plus. Adultery plus sodomy or adultery plus cruelty, whereas the man could get a divorce based on adultery alone. Now this was totally discriminatory, and we've been agitating saying this for years. I was in the law commission after I retired - there also I had made all these recommendations. And I think about 4, 5 years ago, the christians then moved towards it and its been changed. So you see until the community itself demands it, despite all the efforts that the law comision might make or the general public might make it doesn't work out.

Unfortunately one of the steps that we took backwards- if you know about the famous ShahBano case- what happened was- we have a clause in the criminal law- section 125 where if you can't maintain yourself, your husband is expected to maintain you even if live separately. The man who has the means is liable to maintain. But it was a limited amount- 500 rs or 250. Now its probably been raise to 5000, so you didn't actually have to go and beg on the streets. That was the whole idea.
Now this lady Shahbano was separated from her husband and she was living separate from him, and she moved an application. The district judge gave her something like -I don't remember the exact details but- 64 rupees per month to get from her husband. The husband went up to the high court and the high court upheld it. Then he went up against that order- that I'm not giving anything- he was a lawyer and- now this is not the civil law- its the criminal procedure code which allowed for maintanince to avoid beggary on the streets. Destitution. And it applied to everybody over the years. But now suddenly, because this came to court and it went right up to the supreme court because he was a lawyer and he challenged it- the Supreme court upheld and raised it from 64 to 128 rs or something like that. But while upholding it, there was a lot of argument about the whole aspect of muslim law being in danger and their rights being taken over, and of course it was the men who were shouting.
Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister then. He was young and we all thought- many times I don't forgive him for that- The muslim community sent letters to him from all over India. ALmost the same message- saying that Islam is in danger. There'll be rivers of blood. He could have said it's the decision of the SUpreme COurt- I can't do anything about it. He changed the law. They set aside that order of the supreme court by amending the law and saying that section 125 of the law will not apply to muslims. SO the judgement of the Supreme Court was overturned in that way. So then we said- woman on the street- what will she do? Oh! She will be paid for by the Muslim Wakkh board. Overnight they dropped the law. It was terrible. And so many women's organizations went and spoke to Rajiv Gandhi. He said yes, I understand the point of view, but he gave in. So this Shahbano case was a real retrogade step, instead of going forward and having a uniform civil code, we are now saying the criminal law does not apply to them.

The issue of having a muslim, hindu and christian code for a judge or as a practicing lawyer- It's not really a problem. These issues came up to me more in the law commission when we were talking about the reform of the law. Not as a judge, because as  judge, there are two sides- I remember only one particular case  where the Hindu and the Muslim problem came up- where a man converted. He was a Hindu and probably wanted to marry somebody else- he was already married. And he converted to muslim religion so that you could have 4 wives, and he wanted to have a 2nd wife. And whether that was valid or not. I remember, it was very long ago, 1st 2,3rd year of my being a judge. As far as I remember, what I decided was if you are married by one law, the Hindu law in this case, then the rules of that law will apply. You cannot divorce or do things by another method by conversion. Though for the wife, if one spouse converts to another religion, its grounds for a divorce, but the man who does it or the woman who does it can't take advantage of it themselves! So, you can't misuse the law in that way. So that was basically a conflict of two laws: Hindu law and the Muslim law, but normally there's not much conflict.

I must tell you when I was practicing, I hardly did any personal law cases, because the reason was that I was amongst the first few  female lawyers and I wanted to prove myself in the male domain. I thought if I did divorce cases and custody cases- they'd say , oh! she's just a woman lawyer- so I did criminal law, I did company law, I did income tax, I did constitutional law, I did civil cases, not necessarily because they were what excited me a lot but because I wanted to prove myself as good as the others in the male domain.

Recently an act has been passed, where children have been called upon to look after their parents, and if they don't- older parents who are being left on the street, or living with them but neglected- so they should be looked after. Though this criminal procedure code 123 is still there, this is a quicker method. They don't have to go to court, there will be some sort of tribunal which will sort it out. , the law was first passed in Himachal. And in Himachal when they passed the law they again excluded the muslims, because the muslims said this is against our religion, why would we do such a thing: if we do it we do it , if we don;t we don't. Who are you to pass a law? And they excluded the muslims. Now they've passed an all India act, but when they were passing this act, they were taking this Himachal case as a model - and I am on the board of HelpAge- and there's a gentleman there- Muni Sabhrwal who really started HelpAge India- and the govt sent the papers to him to look at the draft bill. And I saw this and ai said ti him- He didn't notice, didn't realize- but I knew about the Himachal act - so I told him that you know this is what's going to happen- we must insist that this law apply to everybody not just-and don't allow the muslims to be excluded like this. I mean these mullahs and these people make noise for nothing. They don't realize how much its important for old people, for women- so he managed to persuade. He called for one of the meetings and he managed to make sure that it applied to all.

The act is also a reaction to the times because less and less people are looking after their parents, you know. Nobody would have thought there would be a situatin where people will not look after their parents. The joint family system was in vogue... Also overall people are living much longer- The av age used to be something like 27 in the beginning of last century, now it's gone up to over 64 or something- SO now I'm living in some kind of area where I shouldn't be alive :-)  but you know there used to be a thought- have become 60- sathiya gaye- have gone senile- now we're living till 70, 80, 85- abroad, even longer maybe, the climate, conditions, health conditions are better. So as the age is advancing, people are realizing this is a problem- somebody's got to look after the elderlly. And children are moving away. More nuclear families...

And now there's a big move to find and set up old age homes . People are becoming more conscious of the elderly, lets put it this way. And politicians also realize that they have a vote. See, eventually, everything comes down to the vote!

But old age homes, there aren't many. Those who can afford, yes, but for those who can't afford, the govt will have to provide. They want to do private-public partnerships. You know- people are thinking about it, how to get on with it. Widow's homes, you know- things are- now it;s in your consciousness. Before it wasn't. I'm on the board of HelpAge India and this is one of the things we have been talking a lot about .

This is our home. We built this house. It is our home. We built it in a way, we thought there should be separate units for the children. That's why our rooms are not that large, we wanted this unit, and the plot was not that large. But eventually the child who stayed with us, we didn't know who would- someone was in england, someone was in America, and we thought our daughter would say because she was the one who was in India, but she's now married an Austrian diplomat and they are all the time traveling, so eventually it happens that our second son, Shantan, he's married to an Indian girl, they've got children, and he's the one who's here. Vikram, eldest son is not married. He moves around- So we have a son, a daughter-in-law and two children here. So we have a family here, and we're lucky I say, that the ones who are living here are the ones with the children. We as grandparents- its a wonderful thing. You know sometime you may not feel so good- its a gloomy day or something- and you know these children come down-they're 3 and 6- it just changes the whole world for you.

In India as you know, there are different stratas of society. The strata I live in, I find that a lot of them feel isolated. because most of them wither have their children living abroad or other towns and often they are living on their own. if they are living in the same city also, either they like their own independence and don't want to live with their children. It's very rare when you can have a situation where you can get two units in one house: separate and together. That's where I am fortunate that we have that, for as long as it lasts. Even in this colony I see that the elderly are living by themselves. Their children are in Dubai, in America, in England, in Bangalore, you know- and it is lonely.
You read in the papers quite a lot about elderly living in their home alone, and a stranger comes in and attacks them- and nobody knows even if the stranger had broken in what went and what didn't because nobody knows what they had, so you know- So, there's fear definitly. Isolation and fear of crime. Now they're trying to register the elderly and someone goes and checks on them and finds methods to check on them- the RWAs, resident welfare associations, the resident themselves- Sometimes the govt. authorities are also trying- the police- to do something about it. And quite often it's the domestic help you're dependent on, who are the ones who quite often attack. So they say that you should get your domestic help checked by the police and things like that. So lots of different kinds of fears.
Now, in the poorer strata of society what's happening is that- say, take the boy who cooks for us. He lived in the village with his family. Now, he's moved away to cook. Now his parents are living alone, so he's worried that they may be alone when they need some agricultural help in the summertime. So he needs to go there- so there are those kinds of problems also. So there's isolation, in both cases, of course.

The elderly are getting together. Whether- its the women they may be going to a bhajan session. Men might be going to a group to sit and discuss politics or go to a club, I think that is happening, because they know that they are dependent on each other, they may play bridge or whatever. They are now trying to get more independent and also trying to get their source of support form the society around them rather than from their children who are far away.

Over time I think the types of litigation have changed. Many years ago, if you look at the old reports, the cases were all about land, property- of course, they are many diff kinds. Now there are cases in corporate law, in tax, about environment. The cases now are of a different type. That has changed certainly.

I think judges very carefully isolate themselves from politicians- don't meet politicians, and keep themselves away from it. In fact I know some judges who don't even go to vote because of that! I think that's going to the extreme, you can vote for whomsoever you like! But I know a particular chief justice was telling me the other day that 'I've never voted!' ANd I said why, and he said, well, I became a judge at this time, and now I've retired, so I can vote. All these days, I've excercised my vote, even though I was a judge. So, for me, its a conscious separation.

I am 77. I have retired. Now I've been working with help-age India and the population foundation. I've been working with the commonwealth human rights initiative. I've been chairing many of these things also. I am in the universities, was chair of Miranda house, on the board of Lady Shriram college. SO I want to devote my time to things like education- to problems which I feel are important like helpage and population foundation. And I am also the trustee of the India International center with the culture- so these things interest me more. Of course I took time off to write my book. And I am planning to write something for children. Yes, that's the reason (having grandchildren around) ACually I want to write something dealing with the constitution: what are children's duties and their rights, and what are the rights of people in this country so they know it a kind of simple way, and mould their minds.

I think children today are much more conscious of the world. For one thing- there's television, which brings the whole world in. CHildren travel a lot more nowadays. In my strata- I went abroad when I was 22 or something, but children today have been all over the world. My grandchildren who are 3 and 6 have been to America, have been to ENgland, to France. So they're exposed to much more. And also society gives them much more independence, gives them much more thought. I told my children that they should be quiet. But today the parents let their children do what they think, grow the way they want, you know- Much more leniency in society. I don't know whether it's right or wrong. Whether it would be beneficial or not, but there's certainly a lot more leniency in society.

As far as foeticide is concerned, its absolutely shocking, there's no question about it. I've written in my book 'On Balance' also about it, and I think it's one of the worst things that can happen. Totally totally wrong. Now we have a law. It's often breached. Because people want boys instead of girls. Rather have two sons and no daughter. Speaking for myself, I'm delighted to have two gtanddaughters. It's absolutely wonderful. When we had children, I wanted a girl, we had a boy, 2nd one I wanted a girl, we had a boy, we said let's give it a last try, and we had a girl! But what is going around and what is surprising is that it's the affluent who are involved - I would have never thought that- I would have thought it's maybe the poor, because they're worried about the dowry system.

So you need to create a balance, you know, and I hope it will come. I am always hopeful, and I think you need to be hopeful too. And I think people are becoming conscious of the fact that this is not a natural thing. This is not a good thing. Girls are starting to work. A girl is as good as her brother. I wrote a poem, it was written for a dif reason, but at the end of my book, on balance, I write it: I say to the father- give her a chance, to the mother, change your tradition, and let her flow and let her go out into the sunlight and dance, you know. And I hope it will be.

Well, I'm not a writer. I wrote my autobiography and I wrote this poem only because-, I think is quite a bad poem, I was quite ashamed to put it there, but I thought the feelings were very important. In fact, I was ashamed to show it to Vikram. So I'm basically the writer of one book which doesn't make me a writer, though now I'm told that I'm a writer. Now, my eldest son, Vikram (Seth) always was interested in writing. He was the school editor, you know. He wrote poems even when he was quite small: somewhere a baby bear was killed, and he wrote a poem about it, and all the boys were so excited about it that they's killed a baby bear, and here was this chap telling them how awful it was what they had done. Here was this baby bear, tender and gentle, and you have killed him sort of thing. So he used to write off and on, but I didn't think he was going to become a writer. I thought he was going to be an economist. He went to do his studies in Oxford and went to Stanford and studied economics there. When he told us he was going to be a writer, we were horriifed, in the sense that we said: he'll have to starve! So we said, while we're alive, we'll support you but what will you do when we're dead and gone! So, he found his own way. And like my husband said if other people can support him with scholarships in Guggenheim and this that and the other, we should also support him. So he stayed with us for 7 years. He wasn't earning anything, he was just writing his book.

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Shambhu Dutt Sharma:

I am academincally speaking a BSc and an LLB. I stood first class first at my college, and was president of the student union. But I never practiced law because there was and still is so much of corruption in the lower judiciary that I found revolting that I found as a budding lawyer would have to tell so many lie to succeed. So while the knowledge of law in India is very useful the practice of it in the lower courts is forbidden. The higher judiciary fortunately is still intact. The high court and supreme court there is still sometimes very casual cases so I remmeber the case of Mahatma agndhi when he was a budding barister in AFrica- M.K Gandhi- bar at law- when he used to tell hus clients- please tell me the truth. If you behold the truth at any stage and I later on come to know about it I will not be able to defend  you. I will return the brief and also the money that you might have paid. The result of it was that M.K. Gandhi bar-at-law became famous that we would not utter falsehood in court. and whoever brings his case, whenever Gandhi's client was the plaintiff - the judge used to say- sit down Mr. Gandhi, and tell the defendent- you begin your case. So great was the faith of the judge, that Gandhi has said so- so no arguments are necessary. This was his reputation.

Incidentally, I vistsed that station where he was thrown out of his carriage by an arrogant SOUth AFrican British guard. and that place has become something halloed and there is an statue in front of the old capetown parliament and it is said by various people that Gandhi declared that the whole night that he shivered in the cold, that night Satyagraha was born.

So Gandhiji when he came back to India, he gave a call that go to the people- go to the masses- so long as you remain an elitist- it is not going to cut any ice with the British. And he told the nation we are slaves of the British because we cooperate with the British. The day we start saying No- how can a small island nation thousands of miles away hold a large country - it will not work at all- they will themselves have to quit in due course.
I mention all this to you because after finishing my education I joined the Indian army and was promoted very soon as a junior scientific officer. We were called civilian gazetted officers and I was a young officer of 23 years of age, the result was that I started working and was so employed when the Quit India Resolution was passed in Bombay. The British had dragged India into the war effort- the world war II without asking, even mentioning it to anyody. They took for granted that the Indian Army was subject to their control. This was not acceptable to Gandhi. The british arrested the entire working committee of the Indian National COngress. They took away Gandhi
and Jawahar Lal Nehru, Maulana Aza, all our leaders- and the country didn't know where they had been taken. This is how the Quit India Movement started.

On 8th August, 1942 the Quit India call was given and Gandhi was appointed the sole executive for that. But the Britishers in India headed by Lord Lithgow were furious. The war was going on, and it was not going very favorably for the British! The Japanese were advancing- had come up to Singapore. So they said: 'Nothing doing.' And the British arrested the entire working committee of the Indian National Congress. And they took away Gandhi.

So the 9th was Sunday, on the 10th of August, 1942, I resigned my job. I said I will not serve the British. Because I was a member of the Indian Army Ordinance Core, they said: 'You have done a very wrong thing. Withdraw the resignation and Go.' I said: 'No! I am placing my resignation on record. The devotion with which you- my British officers are working for your country reminds me of my obligation to my country. I will not work for the British Government!' So I was sent to prison right from my office.

When I recovered- after 6 months- I was released on a stretcher. I was completely disabled. Not that they ill-treated me. They treated me as a young officer of the Indian Army- as a Civilian Officer. But there was a British surgon in Lucknow- I was in Lucknow prison- he said: 'It is better to release this young man. If he dies in prison, he will bring a bad name to the government. And you can put the CID (Central Investigation Department) behind him!' So, I was six months in prison, and the next 6 months confined to bed!

First of all I was not a usual jail goer. It was my first time. My colleagues had courted imprisonment in earlier movements, but more than that, it was found later on that in my appendix there was some TB infection. Something like that they discoverd, I don't know!
And then there was no adequate treatment in jail. And those days, the British were so strict- The war was going on- that they would not release me on medical grounds till I was about to die! But such was the grace of Mahatma Gandhi that I have entertained no bitter feelings against the British- all those people. And the British are now as welcome in India.

So I was called now a freedom fighter. This is a brief history of those people who suffered at that time and participated in this Quit India Movement. They were after decades- they were honored- they were given small pensions. Normally pensions are given if a person has served the govt with loyalty and all. We the freedom fighters were given pensions for having wrecked that govt, so to say.

Gradually, I recovered. Age was in my favor at that time. I started a business to support myself, and as chairman of my family company, I found that there is corruption at every step! So, minor tips and other things I allowed my managers but whenever it came to any major bribery, I would not pay. I must be the poorest industrialist in this country, and suffered terribly, and I took a vow that in addition to whatever I have to do for my maintenance and all that, I will fight against corruption.

My son, who is a qualified engineer from well known IIT, he has set up his industry and he has also suffered because of corruption, but he says: ‘Papa don't interfere, otherwise I will also end up in Gandhi's ashram!’ So I said: ‘Very well! You are free to do what you please and so I am free to do what I like to do. I will fight against the evil of corruption.’ And the more I went into the why and how of this problem of corruption, I came to the conclusion that for cleaning a staircase, you have to begin at the top, not at the bottom!

Peter Eigen the founder of Transparency International came to India and he was in search of some organization who will take up this work. Now transparency International has got sectors in more than 80 countries. and they were searching for some people in India. Someone told them go to Servants of People Society. So we all met- Attorney General was their advisor. They invited me to their annual conference in Uganda. Peter Eigen used to work for the world bank in Africa. He came across so much corruption with the funds of the world bank that were flowing in there, that he gave up his job and founded this Transparency Internation with Berlin as headquarters. I was so impressed with the sincerity of Peter Eigen in this Uganda conference that I came back and reported to my seniors that it would be well worth joining this to know how other countries are handling this problem- both prosperous as well as those who are not.

I found that corruption had entered into the political field, which is the most deplorable, because they had the power to stop corruption but they would not! The result is Indian National Congress lost their monopoly of twenty-thirty years from when Jawahar Lal Nehru was there.  Inbetween Indira Gandhi came!  She was a competent lady- but then she imposed Emergency! A few of us resisted that emergency, and we were imprisoned again!  About hundred thousand people went to prison during emergency.

She had imposed press censorship and what hurt us most was she said that she was trying to save the democracy! No, it was a malafide Emergency because she had been disqualified for six years because of certain irregularities in the financial side of her fighting elections and a concenscious judge of Allahabad high court had given a judgement against her, under the Prevention of Corruption Act and also under People's Representation Act! She was disqualified to stand for elections for six years but then she had a majority in Parliament, and having a captive Parliament, they changed the laws! They exonerated her!

You must have read about Musharraf in Pakistan, as the judiciary went against Musharraf. He had them taken out. That is an element of dictatorship.

Well, we wrote to her: ‘Madam! You don't know what the country thinks about your actions, as you go on passing draconian orders!’ For example, during the emergency the Judges held that the government can make laws which may deprive a citizen of life and liberty! So all kinds of things were being done in India at that time and we said: ‘No! We will not tolerate this!’ Our letter was sent in June 1975 and we were all arrested- the signatory seven of us and sent to prison!

So we were for seven to eight months in prison, but since there was nothing against us except having written that letter, ultimately a Shaw commission, a judicial commission was established to examine the excesses during emergeny and they said that these seven people who were arrested- it was illegal, unjustified, uncalled for…

 So, when the opposition party came to power they honored us- citation this and that- though we are totally opposed to the RSS and BJP also, because we feel that it is a communal outfit. That is my grievance! I am a Hindu. I am a Brahmin. I don't believe in caste system however, and I feel that caste system whatever role it may have served in ancient India is an anachronism now. There should be no such divisions. We are all Indians. That's all. That's enough!

We are a strictly non-party organization- Servants of People Society is non-party and so is Transparency- non-party, non-political organizations.

A man should vote, take interest in politics, but not allow it to go on- to have politics become a cesspool of corruption and later on beat his breast in everybody's drawing room, and probably later on go out and indulge in corruption himself!

Now I am in my ninetieth year, but I keep on working though I have had heart difficulty. All the ailments which old age brings, I suffer from, but this work is my therapy. 'Any thing selfless'- Jawahar Lal Nehru (India's first Prime Minister and close associate of Mahatma Gandhi) used to say- 'when a person aligns himself with any great cause, then something of that greatness rubs on him.' So it has rubbed on me or not, I'm not sure as Jawahar Lal Nehru had said… But the fact is if you go on working, work is also a kind of therapy. If I sit at home, I will die. So, for the last forty years I have been working here as an honorary voluntary worker in Servants of People Society.  It is the oldest NGO in India. It was founded by Lala Lajpat Rai, the great patriot martyr of Punjab, at Lahore (now in Pakistan) in 1921.

We have been able to garner support from many eminent people in India: in Administration, in Politics, in Parliament- many are supporting our demands. Leave aside the Freedon fighters, they of course are supporting, and Gandhian institutions all over the country, they are supporting, but also Retd. Judges, Retd. Senior army officers right upto the ranks of Lt. Generals, Retd. Senior, IAS, IPS, they are all supporting us.

All in the movement are quite old! So, we are now taking our message to the universities, to the senior students. We don't want to involve the junior students because that would not be fair to their future. We went first to the Jawahar Lal Nehru Universirty because that is generally a post graduate university, so to say. And I'm glad to inform you that they have formed: 'Young Gandhians against Corruption!'

A small group- very small- but they are now contacting their fellow students. Because one of our conditions is that 'you will not take part in power politics! You will not echo what the political parties are doing! Because this cry that we are making is addressed to the political parties! So you will not be a part of that establishment' which indeed has happened with DelhiUniversity. There elections are fought on party lines. Money is provided by respective parties: Congress, BJP, other parties- and all the evils of our election time have permeated DelhiUniversity in their own elections. So we are going to the Teacher's organizations- they are young people- at any rate certainly young compared to the old Freedom Fighters! We know that there is no future for our Gandhian Satyagaha movement unless younger people come forward.

Gandhi was assassinated on 30th Jan 1948. Two days before his assassination, he worte an advisory note which we all treat as his last will and testament, and he said: 'I advise the Indian National Congress now that we have gained independence- that was  few months after India gained independence on 15th Aug, 1947- to disband yourself. Don't go after Power Politics. And organize all the constructiove organizations that are working under the Gandhian umbrella- Spinners Association, Khadi Movement, Harijan Movement, Village Industries, Rural Development work, all Voluntary work- and make a Lok Sevak Sangh of all this. I advise the Congress men to work there.'

Nobody obeyed! Nobody complied. So, lots of NGO's were running then, even though they weren't called that then. But we followed that last will and testament of Gandhiji- Lok Sewak Sangh, particularly.

Servants of People Society did not really comply because many of our presidents were ministers in the government. They were MPs, MLA's, some of them were Governors.  But this wing of Servants of People Society to which I have the honor to belong we went along with that last will and testament, and Lok Sewak Sangh was formed here in Lajpat Bhavan.

Very few people were in it. Because firstly, demands of Gandhi were rather rigorous: 'Your religion shall be truth! Your means and methods will be non-violent!' like that- and very few people even today would like to subscribe to that code, which forms the code of conduct for this small organization. It is small and will remain small also, but it gives us lot of consolation.

 It was not that we went to prison and we fought against the British and all that! No!  It was that many of us continued to serve in different capacities all over India subscribing to Gandhi's message, and in Delhi I told the Servants of People Society that I should be given the freedom to organize a local Lok Sewak Sangh, and its values and methods will be somewhat different from the constitution of the Servants of People Society. For example, we are concerned with the Politics of India but we will not ourselves go into electoral Politics and seek offices of power.

The badge of a political worker during Freedom Movement was 'Service and Sacrifice'. Now, honorable exceptions apart, the badge have become 'Power and Money.'

Twenty percent of the members of our Lok Sabha, our lower house of Parliament, are either corrupt or have criminal antecedents! We have five hunded and forty three members of the Lok Sabha who make laws and all that- and of that about one hundred MPs have been elected because of weakness in electoral laws with corrupt and criminal cases going on!

We fought (along with five or six other NGOs including Transparency International) a writ petition in our Supreme Court that the voter has a right to know, as part of Freedom of Expression- Speech and Freedom of Information, so the result is that the Supreme Court gave decision in our favor, even though the government resisted us in court.  But the court decreed that every candidate to Parliament or State Legislature shall declare at the time he files his nomination papers: his education, his assets, his wife's assets, and the criminal cases pending against him!

So we won that case, and this is the law of the land today. This judgement was delivered in 2001-2003. And the last election which brought Sonia Gandhi and the Congress Party- it was fought on the basis of this.

But to my great regret, I must say that morality cannot always be engendered by the law. Law and ethics are different. So we succeeded in getting the law passed, but in its implementation many declarations had been given false. And we checked their declarations. They had suppressed their assets. Secreted their assets - put it in wife's relatives names, like that. And criminal cases they don't declare and all that. After all, there is no government machinery to verify the correctness of those declarations! And many of them do honestly declare we have got this, this and this. But there is no provision to ask them from where you have got these assets!

The Lok Sewak Sangh then promoted a different wing called the Gandhian Satyagraha Brigade trying to emulate the example of Gandhi in South Africa. And we borrowed the pledge to be signed by every Satyagrahi as drafted by Gandhiji. I am now the honorary General Secretary of the Gandhian Satyagraha Brigade. We are at the moment about hundred and fifty Satyagrahis in Delhi and about another hundred and fifty in the rest of the country.

And we served a notice on our government giving three demands only, that if you implement these, political corruption will disappear and that will usher in a new era in Indian politics, and then you will also have the Moral authority apart from the Legal. Now the Legal authority is there but the Moral authority to ensure that the corruption of the bureaucrats goes down, is not there. Now this is my present work:

So, this is our first demand: Please implement your promises which you have repeatedly made, to have a Parlimanetary ombudsmen called the ‘Lok Pal,’  who will have the authority to investigate any complaint brought against a Union cabinet minister or Member of Parliament with full powers to investigate and give his findings to the government. And that those findings would be respected. There should be a three member LokPal, which means protector of the people.

Some states have adopted state legislations for the Lok Pal. They call them Lok Ayuct. There are flaws, but over time they will be cured.

Our argument is that there are 543 members of the Lok Sabha , 250 of Rajya Sabha- 800 people, and if they do anything wrong- if there is a LokPal or a Parlimanetary Ombudsman- and he gives his findings, then that will solve the problem!

When we tell them that so and so MP has disproportionate assets- their defense is that there is no competent authority to sanction our prosecution! This is how a competent law can be circumvented or defeated. All that can change, but change can take so much time that havoc shall have played till then!

 Imagine a position when one day in the Lok Sabha the majority is criminals or corrupt- very rich people. If there are twenty percent today, there is nothing to prevent, no law to prevent that in the next election, fifty one percent may be so!

So we regard our struggle against political corruptin as something very vital, very essential - because until your house is set in order- formations down below cannot!

Our Second Demand is: Disqualify persons against whom cases are going on, on their own admission in the nomination papers that they file! Disqualify them! Tell them to go clear their deck and tell their party to bring some clean people. After all Parliaments and State Legislatures are temples of democracy, and nobody should be allowed to enter with unclean hands.

They must go back to the courts and ask the High Court to quash proceedings, (if applicable.) Because their defense is that it is false cases filed against them! Who has the courage or strength to file false cases against the cabinet ministers and all those people!

Our third demand is: Forfeiture of illegally acquired property by public servants, by political leaders. And by the way this demand was first voiced by none other than the Chief Election Commissioner, who is a Statutory Authority.

Our Election Commission holds free and fair elections and we tell them- Elections can never be free and fair if people charged with rape and murder and extortion can stand for election! Even if they are imprisoned, even from prison they can fight these elctions!

So don't let them enter Parliament! Their defense always is: everyone is innocent until proven guilty! This is a noble principal of jurisprudence no doubt, but who will prove the Minister's guilty?

The machinery of CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and other departments of India is completely under the departments of the government. If they are running the government, then who will prove them guilty? That is the whole problem!

We have put forward these demands because we find that the law at present is inadequate and the Law commission of India, which is also part of the government, has drafted a proper Bill, a foolproof Bill to the government that if you proceed on these lines, there will be plenty of powers with you to forfeit these assets. That if you provide a separate independent organization, anybody with a complaint can…

Now the law permits people to fight cases, but they take ten years. Criminal cases sometimes take fifteen years. So in ten years, the corrupt and criminal politician will have two inings of five years each, and during that they may well be ministers as they are indeed today!

And we wrote to Dr. Manmohan Singh. He is an honest man but surrounded by a coalition, by people who are not so honorable, and Manmohan Singh calls all these the compulsions, the limitations of a coalition. We say- No! These are not limitations. It was your discretion to choose your cabinet! To stay in power you took some of the most corrupt people in your cabinet! Having taken them you are justifying it by saying these are compulsions of a coalition.
The name of India all over the world- IndiaShining, India Prospering! All those things are there, there are good investments coming- but in corruption our Transparency International also places us as the twenty most corrupt countries in the world! We are not prepared to tolerate this.

So, Gandhian Satyagraha Brigade is waging Satyagraha- first phase of three months, we have just completed. And our working committee will be meeting here on the eigth of December, so Phase II will be decided and we have declared that Phase II will be intensification of Satyagraha!

And we have said that the third phase of our Satyagraha- if you don't pass any demand of these three- In the Gandhian Parlanace, we have told the government that upto the budget session, if you do nothing, then a few volunteers, five, six or seven of us- we will embark on a fast unto death!

They are waiting that the movement will die of its own. Movement will not die. We may die!

So perhaps I give to my own self four months more to live, because I'm not sure even though we may embark on a fast unto death, that they will do anything or not. My arguments with our colleagues is: ‘Who knows our death may achieve what our life could not!’ But in the Gandhian parlance you can't go and shoot down the corrupt man. We can only appeal to our govt, we can only appeal to our political parties, that this is not the way you should be running the country.

So, in Phase I, the Delhi Satyagrahis went to Gandhi's Samadhi (monument). We pitched our tent. And every Sunday, once a week, from ten to four, we would sit in silent protest against political corruption.

In Phase II, we shall be going in batches of five to the offices of the political parties- both ruling and opposition… and we shall go to the office of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. At the moment, we do not propose to court arrest, because that is the easiest thing to do! So, this area where all the big people reside, you can't assemble more than four people. So we said: ‘Very well, four of us will go- doesn't matter.’

Again I must share with you: I might be pessimistic, but we don't hope to succeed at all! But success and failure is another dimension. We have to do our duty. But supposing the citizen is silent! Doesn't do anything about it! Then they are going to have a field day!

And this is a result of that, where people have tended either to their own problems. There is industrial development- very good, very necessary, but this prosperity that you see in the new middle class, it has not touched the have-nots, not touched the rural population. You go forty or fifty miles in the interior- Lot of poverty! Lot of disease! Lot of illiteracy! So, lopsided development is taking place.

In Phase III, some volunteers will fast. Till they're dead or till there is some assurance from the government that these three demands will be met!

I must again emphasize these are not demands coined or drafted by us.
1st one- Ombudsmen- is your own commitment! Not once, not twice but many times in your election manifestos!
2nd is the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.
3rd is the recommendation of the Law Commission of India.

But, I think that the measures that we are demanding will all be considered. I expect if not in this Parliament then in next Parliament because sometimes excess results in solution.

The excesses that are being committed in respect of corrupt politicians, they have reached a point, where they can be not much worse than the worst. And therefore, whatever will happen will probably be an improvement now. So I give it about ten years time. Political corruption I do believe can be set right in about five or six years. Then you will see a revolutionary change.

That way I am very hopeful, and it is possible that we may not be required to take a fast unto death. We've received binding assurances from the government. And this very government appointed an Administrative Reforms Commission to go into all these matters and make their recommendations. They have made their recommendations now, and they have supported these three demands.

So now we are saying: ‘What is the point of appointing a commission? Now carry out the findings. Now forget our demands, implement what your own administrative commission has said.’ That is why we feel sound and solid- on firm footing in respect to these three demands.

I think the Gandhian way will succeed ultimately, but it will take longer. I admit the argument that if a hundred birds are sitting on a tree, and you shoot just one or two the rest will fly away. But that doesn't happen in Indian politics!

In Japan, the Prime Minster was jailed. In Italy, magistrates were giving the judgements- in many countries even the Prime Minister was taken to task. Why go far- in England from where we borrowed all our constitution and Parliamentary ways of democracy, Gordon Brown is in difficulty. People are not prepared to spare!

That is the point. Here, People's Organizations are not so strong! They are just islands. Pockets- here, there, there… So, the results are not there. Either the laws are not there, or when there are laws they are not being implemented! Because making laws is also in their hands and implementation is also in their hands! So who will set the house in order?”

back:

The Three Heads:
Pratiksha Sharma- Head Girl
Ankit Arora-Head Boy
Ankita-Assistant Head Girl

Ankita: "I am in Sciences now. Until 10th grade I didn't know if I wanted to be in science. But I really feel like fulfilling all the wishes of my mother. And she wanted me to do science. She never pressurizes me. But she understands what I want to do and what I don't. I'm happy."
           Pratiksha: "My parents never asked me to take one or the other. I could take science as per my marks, but I wanted to take commerce."
           Ankit: "And I took commerce because I have to join my father's business." says Ankit. "After this I'll go to my father's shop and do correspondence BA and MBA, because I'd love to have a degree too."
           Pratiksha: "I have varied interests. After this I want to do BCom (Hons.) Then I want to do MBA. My basic aim- my target which I had set when I was in standard Six, I want to clear the IAS exam. I don't know why but it means something to me. Whenever I am reading the newspaper or something and I hear Administrative Service or UPSC exam, I am fascinated by it. The designation itself, its amazing maybe- you take decisions for the good of the country as a whole- it's the idea of being an IAS, you know!"
Ankita:   "I think most are confused (in terms of career goals.) Even we are, but I think others are more confused."
"No, I don't think so. In science, probably each and everyone knows what they want to achieve."
  "And we know this much because of our school counseling, you know."
"We get so much exposure to various streams..."
            "In fact I have noticed that in this area this is the only school that has vocational courses: Information technology, Travel and Tourism, Textile design, Stenography... In fact, most schools don't even offer Arts- Humanities..."
"The benefit these vocational courses have- directly after the schooling they're offered a good job. Especially for those who are not good academically, or can't cope up with their studies, you know?"
"The thing is- I secured 93% in the 10th board exam (Pratiksha was the topper for her school,) the cut-off for Delhi University, as you must be aware, was 96%. So, if I want to take up BCom (Hons.) in SRCC, I need to get at least 96%. So I need to exert myself beyond my capacity to get into a College. I need to do that. There will be other colleges, yeah- but I want to go to the best, you know? If 96% was not the cutoff at SRCC, then Pratiksha Sharma won't be all about what she is right now."

 

Ankit Arora: I feel that our school is giving a very good sex education to us, in the six months before we have had two doctors, sexologist, from GangaRam Hospital, Dr Deepak and Dr Shikha- They both explained us each and everything in such nice way, and many things we were misunderstanding, we didn't knew what- and how to cope up with them. It was such an interactive session-
P: Actually there are so many myths regarding sexual contact or something, so instead of gathering knowledge from friends or-
AA: I must say internet source you know,
P: Yeah, from these sources- it was very good to have to have it from doctors, and you know, educated people and all those thing-
AA: We had a very nice session, you know- and all the students participated and we asked- what Mrs Sarin told us- to give a handwritten paper, because they would be shy to speak- I must say, I was collecting the papers- there was this much paper, the doctor was unable to answer all the papers.
P: And the thing was they were relevant questions, I mean like really decent ones, I would say, (everything we were curious about) yes.
A: One thing, we cannot share all these with my father, but if I have any problem, my mother is always there. I can talk to my mother everything that I want to talk. She's always there.
P: Let me give you an example. When you grow up, you definitely experience changes in your body or something. My mom, she made me aware of all these things before. And like, it really helped.
Q: How much do other girls or boys know about it?
A: Everything.
AA: For the boys, I can say this thing- that they knew but they knew half. They don't know it well and that's why they listen to these words and they react as if you have spoken something wrong. They make it a joke. But with the efforts of our principal and Mrs Sarin, and then that interactive lecture, now each and every child -
P: You asked a question before that something you'd like to change?- Okay, Attitude of students, youth towards all these things. Whenever such things are talked about in society you'll notice that 90% of people behaving very weirdly, having weird expressions to such things. So, I'd like to change that in students.
AA: No, it is not just students- few teachers also- So what- the teacher also thinks that sex education should not be told in school.
Q: But you find it very important?
AA: Yes Maam because we had half knowledge.
P: Frankly speaking,
AS: I think students- boys- make fun of whatever they can get so I think - everthing should be taught to them- that this is right and this is wrong.
P: When that sex education session took place, some of the teachers said, that no, it shouldn't have taken place- to this extent, or to this much detail- they said all those things-
P: I found that- there are such naughty students in our school- I found that they were so serious- behaved so decently that day, I was shocked.
AA: I think it is necessary. If we are not educated in school, this age is such that we will go on the internet and search for this.
A: That is the bad impression.
P: Because we have easy access to internet nowadays. But the thing is Maam- I can put it the other way know- every individual has a different opinion about things know? So out of a group, there will be some students who will take this in what do you call it- indecent way or something- this education while in class and some of them will take it seriously.
A: I think- when we were in junior classes- and there was no sex education and all- I truly believe if they (boys) had been taught this in a very good manner, there wouldn't be any bad impression, and there wouldn't be any indecency going around.
Q. Do you think boys or men would behave better towards girls if this education was imparted to them?
All: Yes.                                                                                                   
AA: Because you start respecting the opposite gender, because you know earlier we didn't know everything about them- so we had a doubt you know- so we weren't friendly to them If we know each and everything and our mind is clear- so we respect them you know? Otherwise we are like- What is this? What is that? But if our mind is clear- we respect them.
Q. So now you can respect them- if those strange questions are not in your mind?
AA: Yes:-)

 

Less patients would have AIDS if there was proper education in the school itself.
I think it should be taught about 8th grade or 9th. That's the age we should have knowledge for this, because that time you have this curiosity- what are these words?
And to say No to unprotected sex.
Those hoardings, advertisements, such movies- they tell you about these things. In society, no, no one talks about it.
In fact we have never come across a person with HIV/AIDS or anyone talking about it.(except in the session)
If you consider Datas and all those statistics, yes it is increasing, if you see news and all-
It is in those areas where people are not educated.
AA: Education also you know- Ads also come. Information is everything. If you know the knowledge, what is it, you are protected from it, I think so.
And frankly speaking, in areas where people are not educated or educated about this and all, this is the problem occurring in those areas.
The thing is Maam, we don't feel it. Like global warming- we sit here- Yes! global warming! global warming! because we don't see glaciers cracking or ice caps melting- we don't come across people with such problems, we don't talk openly or something, that's why we are not aware of the threat.
Govt. is also doing very good steps for awareness of this. Because there are so many hoarding you see. In front of every govt. institution you have- in front of every hospital-
But how many heed it?
Everyone. Life is precious to everyone and they heed to it.
And if the hoarding is there, from 100 atleast 70 would read it.
And definitely we will see a day when the number of people with HIV/AIDS will fall down, I think.

back...

Jennifer Tytler:

On taking care of Special Needs Kids in school:

We began to see that in every classroom, there were about five percent of the children who were unable to study; had some behavior problems, or weren't able to sit in the class, or weren't able to pay attention. And one of our teachers understood this and worked on this and gave the formula to our other teachers, and we identified children in our own school, and she began to work with them. This was a good twelve to fifteen years ago. It is only in the last three or four years that Delhi as such has become aware of this problem and has started the system of inclusive education, where we look after children with learning disabilities or physical challenges and keep them in our learning centers for a while and then put them in the classroom with the mainstream students. I am happy to say that now a lot of schools have started this.

It's been quite a struggle calling parents and getting them to understand what it is, because to the parents' mind, a learning center or a special class is a place where the children are paagal, or mad. The school has been at pains to explain to them that there's nothing of the sort! At first we made it optional for the parents, but most parents would say No! So a few years ago, I put my foot down. I told them if your child has to stay with me, let me do what is in the interest of your child, whether you understand it or not. Trust that I would know better, I would understand better, I would care for your child's academic progress more than you know or you care- Once they understand that, I tell them, I will put you child in the learning center as long as they need, and then I would move them on. And over the years parents have seen, that sometimes we've kept a child for six months, sometimes for a year, and then I move them into the normal class, and 60-70 percent of children who join the mainstream are okay- Not good in their studies but okay. So, over the years parents have got confidence. But in terms of challenge as a whole, it's not just parents who're not aware, even teachers are not, and on an all India basis, perhaps it's only two percent of the teachers who are aware.

There's a great need for psychologists in schools today, as well as a great need for every teacher to be a psychologist herself, and what schools need are more mature psychiatrists and psychologists, who are older, have more experience, perhaps have children of their own, and understand children at every level.

 

On Recent school shootings in a school outside Delhi:

This is a very shocking incident,Of course, the first of its kind, so close to us. It was very frightening. In fact, I was so disturbed when I heard this because suddenly you look at your own children, and you also understand that you have had the same problem in the school. Of course, we have been handling it ourselves. We have had the bully. We have had the victim. But we have always sorted it out. Caught the child. Involved the parents. Reprimanded the child. Given punishment to the child. Given hope and courage to the victim- But it's still very scary because there are four thousand children. Even if two children are involved in such a thing, it could escape unnoticed because children do keep things to themselves. So, it's extremely frightening, but I don't think as frightening as the fact that we have to have security in the school, or we have to have metal detectors. Knives can be carried into the school, but not guns.
But it's the beginning, and it's something we should understand- be aware of and take very seriously, because this kind of thing only escalates, and there's the copycat syndrome. We have had many children who have committed suicide because of examination pressure. If two have committed because they felt some sort of fear, there are three others who have just copied them. So this shooting incident could lead to copycat syndrome among other students. And these two students who shot the other boy, I don't think they were aware of the consequences. They didn't think he would die. They just thought- I'll shoot him, because in the movies, sometimes a man is shot, he just walks off. He's saved. The bullet doesn't kill him. So, I don't think those poor children really were aware of this...but it's something that's frightened all parents, frightened all students, I hope... But it's frightened all schools, all principals- made us aware of this- so that we can take care of the situation. This is an absolutely new challenge. One we haven't faced before!

Also, with today's twenty four hour news channels, the media repeats incidents and events continuously, reinforcing them. And the parent who should be there to rationalize, put it into perspective for the child, that this is okay and this you shouldn't be watching, is increasingly missing, or the children today don't listen to their parents, who feel quite helpless. The children need someone to guide them, but today, there are also children who are becoming latchkey children like in the West. They are locked into their homes, since both parents arrive late at night from work. So there are some parents, where both parents are out, because today India is moving towards that nuclear family as well, but by and large there is someone at home. There are still joint families.

back...

The Self Help Group:

Now, see, my husband herds cattle- isn't that an embarrassing thought- herds goats- but see- now that he goes in the morning and comes in the evening, he pays so much attention, and scolds and hits, but if he was a businessman (men are now setting up small businesses at home like selling chai,) he would be home twenty-four hours, no? Only my broken eyes would be found! I'll be sitting on my hands all day, I'm telling you!"

There are still like that, Madam, in the SHG group, on whom there is still suppression of their husband. We just went to one house to ask another woman to come with us, but her husband said- I'll break your leg if you go! Yes, they want to come, but their husbands don't let them. But one day will come, that there will be openness and permission for them- so they can come!

First, we have learnt to talk to each other after coming out! Because we are all suppressed bahus (daughter-in-laws). Love and affection, we have learnt from each other. And we have met each other!  And most importantly, we have learnt to talk- To move forward! And we have learnt to do our savings in the village. Not to be dependent on anyone. Meaning, if we save money, we won't ask it from anyone. We will do our work from our own money. I run my own center- of hand work.

My Self Help Group in my village Khedla started almost 2 years ago. And now through the medium of these groups, I am doing environmental work in my village also. Have got some roads fixed in the village along with Navjyoti. And I have helped make these 10-11 other groups. And ahead whatever work comes up I will do.

We feel that we are lucky, and we should take advantage of the opportunity. That's what we think and we find and make time to come. Gyanvatiji is our elected president- of our Federation.

Only a woman knows the pain of another. In Abhaypur village, many men are drinking. When my husband drinks a little bit, and I have a problem for ten minutes, (there is a severe problem of domestic abuse in the area,) then those whose men drink a lot, what must happen to them? I want that from my village, liquor and all intoxicating substances should go away. Everyone should spend their days with each other in affection and happiness. There should be good savings. And there should be no torture on women. And we don't have to spread our hands in front of men. So in our village, whatever is needed, we can find a solution to it ourselves. In my village problems are of: light, water, and the most problem is that now-a-days people do a lot of liquor, and I'm taking a step for that. In every house, a liquor shop is opened. Women can't work. I am not troubled now. But others of my sisters who are troubled are a lot troubled- (because husbands beat a lot). I want to take some part of their troubles, that's why we come here again and again. That our village improves. And by coming here, we have found convenience of many things- We have learnt to talk and have learnt to move forward. So it is a lot of happiness for us."

At least now- This much has happened. First Ghoonghat was this low. (pulling the open end of sari all the way down the chest covering the face fully.) Now at least it's come this much up!"(pulls up to cover half the face ) Here, we have come and are sitting like this! You look at us in the village- as soon as we enter it, we are going to do like this!(all the way down low over the face)

Well, when men come in front of us,we have to do sharam (accord respect by pulling the Ghoonghat down.) See, when we do it, there respect is increased in our eyes. And in their eyes, our respect is also increased, no?"

Yes, it is necessary.This is a sharam (shy embarrassment). In the house there are elders. It is just a little custom! But, with the purdah (the custom of veil), there also stays a little suppression- because in front of elders, if we could talk without the purdah, we could talk a little openly, do some adjustments. We would get a little more support. So, the suppression stays.

At least, we have learnt this much that, after doing Ghoonghut we can talk now. Before, we couldn't even talk from within it in front of them. Now, hiding our face, opening our eyes, we can at least talk!

In our caste, a girl can't study much. She's married in childhood. When I was 5, my own marriage happened. I have three children. Eldest is girl, 4 years old, and two boys, 3 and 2.  If my voice ruled- I wouldn't get them married yet. Get them to study, become youth and then they'll choose on their own! But in our caste, we know this, say this- that whose daughter it is, doesn't know that his daughter is become youthful, but the village comes to know that his daughter is becoming youthful. This is the thing. Saying is- that it becomes heavy to the village, but not heavy to the parents. That's why marriage is done early.

It was not good before. Now, understanding has come, so have started to treat as equal. Before when a girl was born, all family members used to cry. But change is coming? Slowly slowly its coming. A little little its coming. Now, we say we don't need a boy, these girls only get ahead after education is good.
It used to happen before. In the stomach only, clean her out. Now there's no case like that. Now they are considered equal. Even those with one girl say, a girl is enough

Our Self Esteem has risen. It has risen a lot!

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Rajo:

 

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