Human rights organizations and forums working for scheduled tribes have condemned her comment

140 characters doesnt convey full intent Kiran Bedi apologizes for tweet on ex-criminal tribes
news Sunday, August 14, 2016 - 10:48

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, “Ex-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.

Also read: Will the Kuravas ever get the justice that they deserve?

“The 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 “Controlling 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. “Rehabilitation was a part of our crime prevention plan.“

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. “I am a well wisher of the tribes always. I always look forward to see a proper welfare package for all such vulnerable groups,“ she said.

She said those not rehabilitated may be still be indulging in such crimes.“We need to work with them and ensure education and other skills training for them to enable them other means of livelihood.“ she said.

Bedi’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 “criminal” in British India under the “Criminal Tribes Act” of 1871.  

Author Dilip D’Souza, writing in Scroll points out that colonial act branded you a criminal, “the day you were born into one of those tribes.” Academics say the Act was the British regime’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 “denotified”, writes D’Souza. But activists point out that the mindset of criminalizing tribes is very much in existence in the country’s police force, as evidenced by the former IPS officer’s tweet. 

Condemning Bedi for her comments, PUCL’s Balamurugan said, “She 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.” 

 

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.  

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