Rough justice for prison heroine
Sunday 07 May 1995
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.
- 1 If you're not already angry about the migrant crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 2 David De Gea: Manchester United goalkeeper's £29m move to Real Madrid off - because paperwork 'not done in time'
- 3 Pansexual: What is it - and when did the term gain popularity?
- 4 Netherlands to withdraw food and shelter from failed asylum-seekers after just 'a few weeks'
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Bono's group has made more money from Facebook investment than from all his music
Nazi 'gold train': Fire engulfs suspected location of vehicle in Poland
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Isis releases graphic video showing four Shia 'spies' being burned alive in Anbar, Iraq
A Chinese journalist has appeared on state television 'confessing' to causing the stock market chaos
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
UN investigating British Government over human rights abuses caused by IDS welfare reforms
£18 - 23k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Junior Artworker / Junior Mac Ar...
£16 - 18k: Guru Careers: A Trainee Installation Engineer / Field Service Engin...
£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This ambitious and friendly sof...
£50000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company has been ...