Responding to the growing criticism for her tweet on 'ex-criminal' tribes, Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi said she did not mean ill to anyone. "I meant not to hurt anyone either. I just shared my past experience and if it has hurt anybody's sentiments, I have no hesitation in expressing my regrets," she said in a statement released on Saturday .
The Times of India reports that following the Bulandshahr gang rape, Bedi on August 1 tweeted, â€śEx-criminal tribes are known to be very cruel. They are hardcore professionals in committing crimes. Rarely caught and/or convicted."
Human rights organizations and forums working for scheduled tribes have condemned her comment and sought its withdrawal.
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â€śThe 140 characters of a tweet does not permit us to voice our view in its full intent because of which concerns have been raised by some quarters and I am duty bound to .... clarify the tweet ," said Bedi, adding that â€śControlling night crime was a nightmare. I recalled how the entire district police and villagers forming night patrols used to spend sleepless nights to protect residents of outlying areas."
She said the police not only prevented crime but also reformed several of those involved in crimes such as thefts and bootlegging. â€śRehabilitation was a part of our crime prevention plan.â€ś
In her statement, she said the rape incident (referring to the brutal rape of a woman and her daughter by the Bulandshahr tribe) caused deep anguish. â€śI am a well wisher of the tribes always. I always look forward to see a proper welfare package for all such vulnerable groups,â€ś she said.
She said those not rehabilitated may be still be indulging in such crimes.â€śWe need to work with them and ensure education and other skills training for them to enable them other means of livelihood.â€ś she said.
Bediâ€™s tweet comes days after the Uttar Pradesh police arrested three men in connection with the brutal gang rape of a woman and her daughter in Bulandshahr. The men reportedly belong to the Bawaria tribe, a nomadic tribe that had been listed among 150 as â€ścriminalâ€ť in British India under the â€śCriminal Tribes Actâ€ť of 1871.
Author Dilip Dâ€™Souza, writing in Scroll points out that colonial act branded you a criminal, â€śthe day you were born into one of those tribes.â€ť Academics say the Act was the British regimeâ€™s move to target communities that took part in the Revolt of 1857, reports The New Indian Express.
The Criminal Tribes Act was finally repealed in 1952, five years after India gained independence, with the tribes being â€śdenotifiedâ€ť, writes Dâ€™Souza. But activists point out that the mindset of criminalizing tribes is very much in existence in the countryâ€™s police force, as evidenced by the former IPS officerâ€™s tweet.
Condemning Bedi for her comments, PUCLâ€™s Balamurugan said, â€śShe is the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, the custodian of the Constitution. Her words expose a colonial and feudal attitude. It is undemocratic and no one can be discriminated based on race, caste or religion.â€ť
Calling for sensitization of the police force, the human rights activist also said it was time for reforming the Police Act of 1861, which is also a colonial act.