Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit opened up to Karan Thapar on Devil's Advocate and admitted to lapses on part of the police and the government in ensuring the safety of women.
She, however, also said that part of the blame lies with the society in how it brings up its boys, especially in most of the Indian households, where boys are preferred over girls.
Read below the full transcript of the interview.
Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil's Advocate. What are the key lessons politicians need to learn after the recent mass protests in the capital? That's the key issue I shall discuss today with Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit. Mrs Dikshit, both the mass protests after the Delhi gangrape as well as earlier in support of Anna Hazare have revealed that the urban middle classes are seething with anger. Would you accept that for politicians like you, that is a real challenge to tackle?
Sheila Dikshit: It's a challenge to the politicians, to the bureaucracy, to the judiciary, to the police, everybody. I agree there. But I also think that is a challenge to society - particularly this gangrape. How are we as a society? What has happened? What has happened in the recent past is bringing this out in the open.
Karan Thapar: I want to separate the two issues, I promise I will come to this question of challenge to the society. But let me first explore with you, how you view this anger? Do you see it as negative and destructive or do you see it as potential source for change and improvement?
Sheila Dikshit: Now, in the case of this rape, I fully sympathise with this anger and anguish. Because it is something inhuman, uncivilised, horrendous that happened to one amongst us - could be my daughter, could be anybody's. So it is horrendous, we need to have a look at it. But how we address that cannot be answered in one line or one sentence.
Karan Thapar: How would you address the issue?
Sheila Dikshit: I think if you are talking of the politicians and the government per se, the government moved very fast to put up the fast-track court, it moved fast to bring up the Justice Verma Committee, it moved fast enough to get another, you know, like we got '181' line or whatever. It maybe a small effort but there were protests, there were silent protests and I think that rang a bell for everybody to wake up.
Karan Thapar: Except for the fact that, I concede the government responded quickly enough in terms of promises, promises to improve policing, promises to have faster justice, promises to set up a helpline but the response from the people was one of distrust almost of disbelief. Does it worry you that the people have given up faith in government, people no longer believe the promises they hear from politicians?
Sheila Dikshit: No. I don't believe that, but I do believe that there was so much anger that everybody was looking for an instant answer. There are no instant answers. A fast-track is fast-track, faster than others but it is still going to take time to collect evidence, whatever it is. I think people were really hurt, deeply hurt with what had happened and they lost their patience if I may say. Not in the bad sense of the word, I would put it in the good sense of the word.
Karan Thapar: They were hurt and they did lose their patience but do you think that the situation reveals something further that there is crisis of credibility for the politicians. That suddenly the young are asking the questions that cannot be answered easily and they have lost their trust and faith.
Sheila Dikshit: No, no. Why are you putting it all on the politicians, why not on many other things? The society's upbringing, the way we are bringing up our children, teaching children, the way the schools are running. Why is it only the politicians?
Karan Thapar: I tell you why I am focusing not on politicians but on the system first is because when you look at the rage against the police what it reveals is that hundreds of thousands or maybe millions believe that the system is not with them, they think that the system is against them. More importantly they see themselves as victims.
Sheila Dikshit: I can understand that. I understand their disappointment with the system but remember please that, Karan, politicians are among each one of us, part of the society we are living in or the schools you and I went to, some politicians have gone there. So, I think we should look at it holistically. We need to look what is going wrong, we need to correct, education, family values and so on and so forth. But just to put it on to the politicians... It's anger and you have targeted the politicians, I can understand that also.
Karan Thapar: But isn't there is a 'Us versus Them' divide between the protesters who believe they represent the people and the politicians who they see as the other - almost, almost as an enemy?
Sheila Dikshit: No, no. Politicians are one amongst you, amongst us.
Karan Thapar: But they are perceived that way.
Sheila Dikshit: No, no, no... People, whoever they are, will come and they will go. But, you know, somebody will carry on, it is only the politicians who are answerable to the people. May not be the right moment, but two years, four years, five years down the line you have to go back to the electorate and it is the electorate which elects.
Karan Thapar: But five years is a long way, and impatience builds up anger and wrath before that.
Sheila Dikshit: No, no. If it happens five years ago, I am saying, this is the only...
Karan Thapar: I accept your point. Let's come back not in terms of politicians versus the people, but in terms of the people versus what they see as a system that is against them.
Sheila Dikshit: That I agree...
Karan Thapar: Does the divide, which is a very 'Us versus Them' divide, worry you? The fact that people feel alienated?
Sheila Dikshit: Yes, yes... It worries me that the police force is not as sensitive or responsive as it ought to be, well-behaved as it ought to be. The system needs to be changed, the judicial system needs to be changed, the bureaucratic system needs to be changed. But it has to be thought out. And please remember, Karan, it is not going to happen tomorrow.
Karan Thapar: True, these things take time. But in a real sense, time is the luxury you don't have. You mentioned that people believe that the police are insensitive. Actually, people are saying that the police as an institution have failed to reassure, to protect and to comfort. Do you concede that?
Sheila Dikshit: Yes. I can see that. I also say that alright you have a misunderstanding with the politicians, remove them - whoever you think needs to be removed. What are you thinking instead of with the police force? You need to improve them. You need to select them better and you need to train them better. I cannot say training about politicians, but certainly about police.
Karan Thapar: So would you accept in a sense the first lesson is that the police need to change the way they behave and the way they are perceived?
Sheila Dikshit: And attitude and also their style of functioning. Why is that you and I and all ordinary people hate to go to a thana (police station)? Why is that people shy away from helping somebody who has come into an accident or this girl's case for that matter? So many people pass by. Because inside there is the fear, there is a doubt that if once I go to a thana, I will be harassed.
Karan Thapar: How do you tackle this?
Sheila Dikshit: You need to change the system. You need to have much more faith in the people and if you have faith in the police force, people will have faith in you.
Karan Thapar: Have you addressed this issue to the Home Minister, to the Police Commissioner?
Sheila Dikshit: Yes, yes. I have.
Karan Thapar: Do they understand? Because you are understanding, but do they understand?
Sheila Dikshit: No, I hope they do. My understanding, Karan, comes from the fact that amongst all these people whether the Home Minister, Police Commissioner or Lt Governor, or the Home Secretary, they are not the people in touch daily with the people. I am, because I happen to be the Chief Minister.
Karan Thapar: So how do you make sure that the Home Minister on one end and the Police Commissioner on another develop the same sensitivity?
Sheila Dikshit: I have told them. I have written letters to them. I have met them all, I have met the Prime Minister and I have said that if you want to bring the confidence back into the policing system we have to change their training and immediately.
Karan Thapar: And what response do you get from them?
Sheila Dikshit: They say "yes we agree", but as I said that not one of them has a magic wand which can be done.
Karan Thapar: But do they have any ideas where to even begin?
Sheila Dikshit: Yes. I would for a start, I said that the easiest thing that you and I can do is and the immediate thing is remove a lot of security from with the VIPs. It is unnecessary. I can tell you about myself. I don't need that kind of security. Why?
Karan Thapar: But are the Home Minister or the Police Commissioner willing to do that?
Sheila Dikshit: Yes, I read it today that they are going to reduce... Have a view of the security... So that it can go to the people.
Karan Thapar: How do you make certain that when a young girl goes to complain to a thana, she is received with an understanding and sympathy, not questioned as if she is a tart or a harlot?
Sheila Dikshit: I agree. I entirely agree. It's not just a young girl, anybody at all. Nobody wants to go to a thana because they know that they will be harassed and embarrassed.
Karan Thapar: But how do you then get the police to change that attitude?
Sheila Dikshit: You have to. You have to give them better training. Look, you are supposed to have CCTV cameras - that in itself will help that alright, somebody has walked into a thana, somewhere somebody is watching - the big brother's watching. You need to have more PCR vans, you need to have visibility of police all over - where police is seen and not just all over stamping its danda but also as a gentleman there to help you.
Karan Thapar: You know, what you want is that police in Delhi to be perceived like the Bobby in London.
Sheila Dikshit: Yes!
Karan Thapar: That sounds easy. But it is almost impossible to do.
Sheila Dikshit: No. The Bobby of London is of course, somebody who is an idol for everybody. But I think we can get near that. Say 10 years ago or 12 years ago, there was a comfort feeling with the police, which is not so now. It is not so now.
Karan Thapar: Would you accept that if that is true, and it is, the fault lies with the police and they must begin accepting it.
Sheila Dikshit: Yes. And doing something about it.
Karan Thapar: Is the Police Commissioner willing to accept it?
Sheila Dikshit: Well, I don't know. I don't know...
Karan Thapar: You sound as if you have doubts.
Sheila Dikshit: No. I have not minced my words where the failure of this has come. In fact, I was overtly but covertly criticised for it. So it is not my job to appoint the Police Commissioner of take him away. It is the job of the Home Ministry.
Karan Thapar: And he needs to make sure that he appoints the right people.
Sheila Dikshit: Right people in a sense the people we have confidence in.
Karan Thapar: But the Home Minister then has to share your thinking.
Sheila Dikshit: Well I hope he does. He knows that things went very wrong and that should have never happened.
Karan Thapar: You don't sound very confident.
Sheila Dikshit: No I don't because I'm not decision taker. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and I hope what I'm saying is the voice of the people of Delhi.
Karan Thapar: Meanwhile, the situation today as in fact expressed by two justices of the Supreme Court is that girls don't feel safe in your city.
Sheila Dikshit: That is right, you see, the judiciary and no less than the Supreme Court had to come out with this comment. This comment is telling, I mean it says it all. Something you, I may not be able to say, and this is the third time they have said this.
Karan Thapar: But are these pearls of wisdom falling on deaf ears.
Sheila Dikshit: No, I don't think so. It will take some time but I don't think it is going unheard.
Karan Thapar: How much time because that is one thing you don't have, people are inpatient.
Sheila Dikshit: Karan, people are impatient but just remember, just being impatient won't work. It will take time. And in this I will say, society, media, and information that is carried, bureaucracy, police, everybody, all of us have to collectively do it together.
Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you, we have absolutely no guarantee that the mass-protests we say in December and early January, the one you saw in 2011 in support of Anna, may not happen again in one or two months in some other issue.
Sheila Dikshit: There is no guarantee. How can you guarantee anything in future? It was Anna Hazare's huge movement, but then Ramdev came and it fizzled out. Everybody thought that it is a game changer but then it fizzled out.
Karan Thapar: You are lucky it fizzled out.
Sheila Dikshit: It was not lucky, it is just that their premises were wrong.
Karan Thapar: But the question I'm asking is different. Next time around tens and thousands are on the streets of your city, will politicians be able to reach out and address them, which they failed to do this time. You are perhaps the only person who went to Jantar Mantar to light and candle. Others could have but they didn't.
Sheila Dikshit: No, it is not true. The Prime Minister spoke to the nation.
Karan Thapar: One week too late.
Sheila Dikshit: May be it was one week later and perhaps he should have done it earlier.
Karan Thapar: And in cold impersonal terms, almost like a distant figure.
Sheila Dikshit: Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi met the people...
Karan Thapar: Outside their house, but nowhere else.
Sheila Dikshit: Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister received her body when it came from Singapore. And she went to her house. I think, politicians did want they were supposed to do. RPN Singh and I both attended the funeral.
Karan Thapar: Can I put this to you may say that the lessons the government needs to learn is that it needs to communicate better and to reach out to people when it is time of crisis.
Sheila Dikshit: Karan, I met a lot of people, and the anger was so much and I understood that anguish. They were not willing to listen. You know there are times when you have such an emotional stress and strain that you are not ready to listen to any voice.
Karan Thapar: Did that put you off in reaching people?
Sheila Dikshit: No it didn't put me off, I went, although I knew I was going to be booed. Everybody, all the security said don't go, but I said, 'no I will go'.
Karan Thapar: Next time if they are out on the streets because you and I know there is no guarantee, will more people reach out like Sheila Dikshit? Has that lesson been learnt?
Sheila Dikshit: It depends on the circumstances. I took out a march of 11,000 women from all over Delhi. Quiet march, had a prayer meeting and also took a pledge. Everyone does whatever they can do.
Karan Thapar: Would you accept that whatever they do sometimes is not sufficient enough, and they need to do more.
Sheila Dikshit: Yes they can, it is a lapse. How could such a thing happen in Delhi, but it did. And we learned from lapses. We have to move forward and think ahead.
Karan Thapar: Let's come to the biggest challenges of all, social attitudes and the way we as a society perceive women and respond to them. Would you accept that the problem begins the way we bring up little boys to believe that they are gods and treat out girls as they are a curse?
Sheila Dikshit: Absolutely, I couldn't agree with you more and I for once agree with you entirely, 100 per cent. School, the home atmosphere, the way you conduct yourself and please remember we are a changing society. Today you have many women coming out to work. Have the boys accepted it, has the society accepted it?
Karan Thapar: In fact paradox is that it is usually mothers who spoil their children. And tolerate those sons mistreating their sisters.
Sheila Dikshit: I wish they would tell them, 'your mother is a woman, your sister is a woman, your wife is a woman, and your daughter is a woman'.
Karan Thapar: And often it is mothers and grandmothers who say to young girls 'don't go dressed like that'.
Sheila Dikshit: Absolutely, it still happens.
Karan Thapar: How are you going to tackle this situation.
Sheila Dikshit: Society changes are always an evolution.
Karan Thapar: Is it evolving at all?
Sheila Dikshit: It is of course, you see so many young girls, as I said, out working. Going out in all places which we wouldn't have seen a decade ago. Things are changing.
Karan Thapar: Mrs Dikshit, even the protest girls were reporting molestation.
Sheila Dikshit: Exactly, so I want to ask those boys, I want to ask all of you, can you help us change our thinking, our mindsets? Why is a girl given half a glass of milk and a boy is given a full glass, it starts there.
Karan Thapar: As a Chief Minister, you can lead a public awareness campaign that makes people sit up and make them realise that they are going the wrong thing.
Sheila Dikshit: Thank you very much for suggesting it. We are working on it, to raise your voice and introspect. I'm going to say it in Hindi, 'Aawaz uthao, chintan karo', we have to do it. But do you know something; it is among the rich, the maximum foeticides take place.
Karan Thapar: Quite right. Their wealth doesn't make them better educated.
Sheila Dikshit: Yes, their attitudes in life has to change, this is not going to change overnight.
Karan Thapar: Which also suggests the problem of rape that has been continuing would stay with us for a long time.
Sheila Dikshit: It has, but thanks to the media it is becoming much more well known.
Karan Thapar: Well known but it is not stopping it, gangrapes are still happening.
Sheila Dikshit: No it does seem to shame anybody. And Karan through you and your wonderful programme, I would like to plead to everybody, please let's not go criticising and come out with ideas. A woman does 76 per cent of the world's work.
Karan Thapar: But you are also saying to Indian men listening to you, 'for god sakes she is a sister, she is a mother, she is a wife'.
Sheila Dikshit: Yes. She is not a plaything. And she is sensitive. Remember that also. Apart from all these roles she is as sensitive a human being as you are.
Karan Thapar: Well let's hope that Indian men listen to you.
Sheila Dikshit: Thank you, I hope so.
Karan Thapar: Mrs Dikshit, a pleasure talking to you.
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