Rough justice for prison heroine

India/ revenge

IT MIGHT have been because her superiors were jealous that she was invited to the White House for breakfast with the Clinton family. Or perhaps Kiran Bedi lost her job as chief warden of India's largest jail because she let one of her most dangerous and cunning inmates - Charles Sobhraj, nicknamed the "Hippie Killer" - use a typewriter to write her biography.

But the 46-year-old Ms Bedi, a short, peppy woman who is India's best known and most controversial police officer, was given a surprise transfer on Wednesday from her post as inspector-general of Tihar jail. When she took charge of Tihar two years ago, the prison's 8,000 convicts were notorious as among the most unruly in Asia, and its wardens the most corrupt.

"Why have I been transferred?" she asked, on learning she was being moved to a dead-end job as head of training at the police academy. "There are a lot of vested interests, within the jail and outside. There are people who are against the reforms. And they have finally won."

Even her adversaries - and there are many, for Ms Bedi unashamedly courts publicity - admit that Tihar is no longer the sink of depravity it was. Before she took over, gangs terrorised inmates and, with the connivance of corrupt guards, smuggled in liquor and drugs, and prostitutes from the women's wing. The backlog of paperwork was so bad that dozens of prisoners languished for decades in prison without being brought to trial.

Tihar's most notorious inmate, Sobhraj - who is wanted in Thailand for a number of self-confessed sadistic murders of Western backpackers - staged a brazen escape from the high-security wing with six other inmates by knocking out the guards with doped sweets. He was recaptured. (Not, perhaps, by accident; in Tihar he will avoid being sent to Thailand, where he would face the death penalty, until a 20-year statute of limitations on the Thai arrest warrant runs out in 1996.)

"I trembled when I first entered Tihar two years ago," Ms Bedi said. Instead of hiring more armed guards with guns, she had swamis teach meditation courses in which more than a thousand prisoners at a time would sit contemplating something other than brawling. She also weeded out corrupt wardens, shovelled through the mountain of paperwork, speeding up trial times, and allowed volunteers into Tihar to teach the inmates how to read.

Her downfall began when her superiors, among them New Delhi's Lieutenant- Governor, Prasanbhai Dave, grew envious of her glory. An invitation to join the Clintons for a talk on her prison reforms was refused by her bosses. When a second breakfast invite arrived earlier this year, public support for Ms Bedi was so great her superiors had to let her go to Washington.

Friends of Ms Bedi said that when Sobhraj let it slip that he was writing an admiring biography of her on an electric typewriter - banned in Indian prisons - her bosses at last had the excuse to banish the high-profile warden to an obscure job.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Junior Artworker / Junior Mac Artworker

£18 - 23k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Junior Artworker / Junior Mac Ar...

Guru Careers: Trainee Installation Engineer / Field Service Engineer / Customer Support Exec

£16 - 18k: Guru Careers: A Trainee Installation Engineer / Field Service Engin...

Recruitment Genius: Software Programmer / Developer

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This ambitious and friendly sof...

Recruitment Genius: Software Sales Executive - OTE £80,000

£50000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company has been ...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935