Kiran Bedi Did Not Tow Indira Gandhi's Car

28/01/2015 8:34 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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Everyone knows the story of an idealistic police officer in Delhi who towed away the car of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in August 1982.

The story fired the imagination of millions of Indians mainly because that young woman happened to be India's first female IPS officer - Kiran Bedi - who is now the Bharatiya Janata Party's chief ministerial candidate for Delhi in the upcoming assembly elections.

But today that story was exposed as a myth - spread through word of mouth and a collective desire of millions to bask in Bedi's reflected glory for standing up to establishment when most can't.

On Wednesday, Bedi said in an interview with NDTV that it was in-fact sub-inspector Nirmal Singh, who towed the car.

"Sub inspector Nirmal Singh towed it away, and that time, I was asked will you take action against this officer. No, I said, I will give this person an award for showing courage."

"Sub inspector Nirmal Singh towed it away,” Bedi said. "And that time, I was asked will you take action against this officer. No, I said, I will give this person an award for showing courage,” she said.

When asked if Gandhi was in the car, Bedi said that it was a "PM house car."

But that didn't stop Bedi from claiming credit for the incident in her previous Twitter bio.

kiran bedi bio twitter

She did not give credit to Nirmal Singh in her 2010 TED talk.

"Because I was sensitive, I was compassionate, I was very sensitive to injustice, and I was very pro-justice."

"What you see, if you see the title called "PM's car held." This was the first time a prime minister of India was given a parking ticket." she said. "That's the first time in India, and I can tell you, that's the last time you're hearing about it. It'll never happen again in India, because now it was once and forever. And the rule was, because I was sensitive, I was compassionate, I was very sensitive to injustice, and I was very pro-justice." she added.

Ravish Kumar, the NDTV journalist, who interviewed Bedi, wrote a blog asking why Singh hasn't got credit for towing the PM's car.

"I thought to myself, so who told us these tales about Kiran Bedi towing Indira Gandhi's car? It has become a sort of urban legend. It has become a part of her image," he wrote. "So why didn't Nirmal Singh become a hero? Why doesn't the world praise Nirmal Singh? Why doesn't any political party give a ticket to Nirmal Singh?"

Even the significance of the car is now in question.

"When I asked Kiran Bedi whether the car was a part of the PM's convoy, she said that the car belonged to the PMO. It's anyone's guess how many cars the office of the PM might have," writes Kumar.

Interestingly, Wikipedia's entry on Kiran Bedi gives credit to Nirmal Singh.

"On 5 August 1982, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's Ambassador car (DHI 1817) was towed away by sub-inspector Nirmal Singh, as it was wrongly parked outside the Yusufzai Market at Connaught Place. Singh was fully supported by Bedi and her superior Ashok Tandon."

News website FirstPost recently reported that Bedi took credit for the towing incident while speaking to students in Bhopal in 2010. "I knew that I will be transferred when I decided to lift Indira Gandhi's car (for wrong parking). I gave a thought to it and decided to do what was right then," she said.

Bedi said, "Wahi hua jo sabeke saath hota hai" (same thing happened which happens with all others). I was transferred to Goa the next day but that did not deter me from doing right things because of my strong foundation of knowledge and value system."

FirstPost then linked to Bedi's own website, which carries two articles with the actual version of the event. The news website also pointed out that Bedi's was not transferred to Goa. On the contrary, she was entrusted the responsibility of managing traffic during the Asian Games at Delhi in November-December 1982.

But so powerful are forces of great myths that the story of young female officer who took on India’s prime minister will endure — after all it is inspiring. The story of a superior officer NOT firing a sub-inspector for doing his job doesn't quite qualify as an urban legend.

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