Kiran Bedi

Kiran Bedi: A police chief with a difference

Before she retired in 2007, Kiran Bedi was one of India’s top cops. As the first and highest-ranking female officer in the national police force, she earned a reputation for being tough yet innovative on the job. Her efforts to prevent crime, reform prisons, end drug abuse, and support women’s causes earned her a Roman Magsaysay Award, the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Bedi also served as a police adviser to the UN Secretary General. She’s well-known for having introduced the practice of Vipassana meditation to Indian prisons, as documented in the film, “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana.”

Now I’m going to give you a story. It’s an Indian story about an Indian woman and her journey. Let me begin with my parents. I’m a product of this visionary mother and father. Many years ago, when I was born in the ’50s — ’50s and ’60s didn’t belong to girls in India. They belonged to boys. They belonged to boys who would join business and inherit business from parents, and girls would be dolled up to get married. My family, in my city, and almost in the country, was unique. We were four of us, not one, and fortunately no boys. We were four girls and no boys. And my parents were part of a landed property family. My father defied his own grandfather, almost to the point of disinheritance, because he decided to educate all four of us. He sent us to one of the best schools in the city and gave us the best education. As I’ve said, when we’re born, we don’t choose our parents, and when we go to school, we don’t choose our school. Children don’t choose a school. They just get the school which parents choose for them. So this is the foundation time which I got. I grew up like this, and so did my other three sisters. And my father used to say at that time, “I’m going to spread all my four daughters in four corners of the world.” I don’t know if he really meant [that], but it happened. I’m the only one who’s left in India. One is a British, another is an American and the third is a Canadian. So we are four of us in four corners of the world.

And since I said they’re my role models, I followed two things which my father and mother gave me. One, they said, “Life is on an incline. You either go up, or you come down.” And the second thing, which has stayed with me, which became my philosophy of life, which made all the difference, is: 100 things happen in your life, good or bad. Out of 100, 90 are your creation. They’re good. They’re your creation. Enjoy it. If they’re bad, they’re your creation. Learn from it. Ten are nature-sent over which you can’t do a thing. It’s like a death of a relative, or a cyclone, or a hurricane, or an earthquake. You can’t do a thing about it. You’ve got to just respond to the situation. But that response comes out of those 90 points. Since I’m a product of this philosophy, of 90/10, and secondly, “life on an incline,” that’s the way I grew up to be valuing what I got. I’m a product of opportunities, rare opportunities in the ’50s and the ’60s, which girls didn’t get, and I was conscious of the fact that what my parents were giving me was something unique. Because all of my best school friends were getting dolled up to get married with a lot of dowry, and here I was with a tennis racket and going to school and doing all kinds of extracurricular activities. I thought I must tell you this. Why I said this, is the background.

This is what comes next. I joined the Indian Police Service as a tough woman, a woman with indefatigable stamina, because I used to run for my tennis titles, etc. But I joined the Indian Police Service, and then it was a new pattern of policing. For me the policing stood for power to correct, power to prevent and power to detect. This is something like a new definition ever given in policing in India — the power to prevent. Because normally it was always said, power to detect, and that’s it, or power to punish. But I decided no, it’s a power to prevent, because that’s what I learned when I was growing up. How do I prevent the 10 and never make it more than 10? So this was how it came into my service, and it was different from the men. I didn’t want to make it different from the men, but it was different, because this was the way I was different. And I redefined policing concepts in India. I’m going to take you on two journeys, my policing journey and my prison journey. What you see, if you see the title called “PM’s car held.” This was the first time a prime minister of India was given a parking ticket. (Laughter) That’s the first time in India, and I can tell you, that’s the last time you’re hearing about it. It’ll never happen again in India, because now it was once and forever. And the rule was, because I was sensitive, I was compassionate, I was very sensitive to injustice, and I was very pro-justice. That’s the reason, as a woman, I joined the Indian Police Service. I had other options, but I didn’t choose them.

So I’m going to move on. This is about tough policing, equal policing. Now I was known as “here’s a woman that’s not going to listen.” So I was sent to all indiscriminate postings, postings which others would say no. I now went to a prison assignment as a police officer. Normally police officers don’t want to do prison. They sent me to prison to lock me up, thinking, “Now there will be no cars and no VIPs to be given tickets to. Let’s lock her up.” Here I got a prison assignment. This was a prison assignment which was one big den of criminals. Obviously, it was. But 10,000 men, of which only 400 were women — 10,000 — 9,000 plus about 600 were men. Terrorists, rapists, burglars, gangsters — some of them I’d sent to jail as a police officer outside. And then how did I deal with them? The first day when I went in, I didn’t know how to look at them. And I said, “Do you pray?” When I looked at the group, I said, “Do you pray?” They saw me as a young, short woman wearing a tan suit. I said, “Do you pray?” And they didn’t say anything. I said, “Do you pray? Do you want to pray?” They said, “Yes.” I said, “All right, let’s pray.” I prayed for them, and things started to change. This is a visual of education inside the prison.

Friends, this has never happened, where everybody in the prison studies. I started this with community support. Government had no budget. It was one of the finest, largest volunteerism in any prison in the world. This was initiated in Delhi prison. You see one sample of a prisoner teaching a class. These are hundreds of classes. Nine to eleven, every prisoner went into the education program — the same den in which they thought they would put me behind the bar and things would be forgotten. We converted this into an ashram — from a prison to an ashram through education. I think that’s the bigger change. It was the beginning of a change. Teachers were prisoners. Teachers were volunteers. Books came from donated schoolbooks. Stationery was donated. Everything was donated, because there was no budget of education for the prison. Now if I’d not done that, it would have been a hellhole.

That’s the second landmark. I want to show you some moments of history in my journey, which probably you would never ever get to see anywhere in the world. One, the numbers you’ll never get to see. Secondly, this concept. This was a meditation program inside the prison of over 1,000 prisoners. One thousand prisoners who sat in meditation. This was one of the most courageous steps I took as a prison governor. And this is what transformed. You want to know more about this, go and see this film, “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana.” You will hear about it, and you will love it. And write to me on KiranBedi.com, and I’ll respond to you. Let me show you the next slide. I took the same concept of mindfulness, because, why did I bring meditation into the Indian prison? Because crime is a product of a distorted mind. It was distortion of mind which needed to be addressed to control. Not by preaching, not by telling, not by reading, but by addressing your mind. I took the same thing to the police, because police, equally, were prisoners of their minds, and they felt as if it was “we” and “they,” and that the people don’t cooperate. This worked.

This is a feedback box called a petition box. This is a concept which I introduced to listen to complaints, listen to grievances. This was a magic box. This was a sensitive box. This is how a prisoner drew how they felt about the prison. If you see somebody in the blue — yeah, this guy — he was a prisoner, and he was a teacher. And you see, everybody’s busy. There was no time to waste.

Let me wrap it up. I’m currently into movements, movements of education of the under-served children, which is thousands — India is all about thousands. Secondly is about the anti-corruption movement in India. That’s a big way we, as a small group of activists, have drafted an ombudsman bill for the government of India. Friends, you will hear a lot about it. That’s the movement at the moment I’m driving, and that’s the movement and ambition of my life.

Thank you very much. (Applause) Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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Kiran Bedi’s You be the sky: From criminality to humanity (Delhi Newsline)

The documentary, You Be The Sky, Kiran Bedi’s initiative to highlight the vitality of meditation and humane management in prison and policing, was screened in the Triveni Kala Sangam. The film highlighted the success of Vipassana, a form of meditation, in fostering change and empowering people physically, mentally and spiritually.

You Be The Sky is an initiative of the India Vision Foundation, a trust chaired by Bedi. The trust, with its objective as ‘‘save the next victim’’, deals with issues of prisoner reform, drug abuse prevention and crime prevention among others.

The film has been funded jointly by the trust and Bedi’s friends, and directed by Lavlin Thadani, whose first production, Karmawali, was screened at Cannes Festival.

One of the lead protagonists in the documentary, Bedi, spoke of the enormous change she had witnessed in prisoners and the police before and after Vipassana. The film also features S.N. Goenka, Vipassana teacher who spread the meditational technique across the world and Raju, and ex-convict who is now a Vipassana instructor.

Expressing her attachment to the film, Bedi said that she had lived the film in the course of her life, and that it was a part of her.

Vipasanna, which draws its inspiration from Lord Buddha, is a an ancient form of self enhancement and reform, “it is what Gautam used to become Buddha. It makes you a Buddha within”, remarked Bedi.

The film is to be screened across the globe and the initiatives to screen the film in parts of Europe are already underway. It will also be screened at the UN this November. To further the effort of making this documentary public, a time slot on television is also on the cards.

Original article no longer available…

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Meditation classes for Tihar inmates (Times of India)

ANURADHA MUKHERJEE, Times of India: Yoga’s the new mantra of well being for terrorists and hardened criminals serving time at Delhi’s Tihar Jail. While meditation courses for undertrials have been in the news for quite some time, this is the first instance that the same “reformation technique” was being used for this high-security bunch.

Big-time names like Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar (behind the attack on Maninderjit Singh Bitta; several people were killed in the incident), Dheeraj Rana (main accused in the Phoolan Devi murder case), Ijaz Ahmed (Pakistani terrorist accused of causing the Lajpat Nagar blasts), Gafoor Ahmad (arrested in the Najafgarh encounter) and Afghan national Taz Sarbaz (said Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist) are among those who reportedly took yoga and meditation classes. “To begin with, we carried out the exercise with only 25 high security prisoners in Jail No 3.

The meditation course was conducted by Art of Living, which is a world-renowned body. Soon, all the high security prisoners will be included in the programme,” said a Tihar official. Encouraged by the positive feedback from prisoners, the authorities have also arranged sessions for the prison staff. “After all they, too, have to tackle very tough situations every day,” he said.

Although prisoners brought in terror charge are usually among the quietest lot in the jail, prison authorities felt this was one way they could let out their pent-up anxiety. “We have adopted a twin-pronged strategy for reformation — education and meditation.

Often education is not enough and as such some of these people are already well-educated. What they need is mental peace and probably refocusing of their thoughts,” the official said. Yoga lessons were initiated a couple of years back when Kiran Bedi was in charge of Tihar.

Over the years the lessons had a palpable effect on the residents, say officials. Instances of inter-gang violence within the prison, and riots have also been on the wane. “It is extremely important to maintain the mental well-being of the inmates given the kind of crowded environs they live in. Our sanctioned capacity is for 4,000 inmates, but over 12,000 prisoners have been stuffed here,” he explained.

Original article no longer available…

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