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Interview: Neelam Katara

Interview: Neelam Katara

‘Politicians Have More Power Than An Activist’
Social activist Nilam Katara explains to NEHA DIXIT why she has finally opted to take the political plunge and fight elections
All these years, people have started looking up to you as an activist who is fair and honest. Why do you want to join politics?Initially, I didn’t have any inclination for politics. It all began as a rumour, following which some very positive people approached me. That gave me food for thought. It gave me a feeling that people believe in me. They feel that if I take up a cause, I will fight for it. Moreover, I have been in public life for seven years now and have felt that it is much easier to act on the behalf of the needy when you are in politics. You are in a much higher position with lot more powers than you have as an activist.
Aren’t political parties trying to leverage your tragedy and the fight you led for justice, to get votes for themselves?It’s not about taking leverage or evoking sympathy. I want to use my struggle to help those who are in the same circumstances as me and are still suffering.
You have had a personal and bitter experience of the system and how it works — for long you were a victim of the political/criminal nexus. What kind of a difference do you think you will be able to make to such a system?If you look at local issues, I would want to work for a crime-free Delhi, and a crime-free country. Now, the major challenge is to make some systemic changes in the criminal justice system. It can only be possible if we have people who are interested in making those changes in the legislature. There is a certain percentage of people whose interest is served by letting the system not have regular reforms. So I want to be there myself, and I hope that by making an attempt to serve in the legislature I will serve as an example for other people.
There are a whole lot of people — I was also one of them — who said that I am doing my bit. I am taking care of my family, my job and I am not interested in what is going on in politics. And how am I bothered by crime? I am a living example of the fact that we have to be bothered now and we have to engage with the system and the flaws in it because it will impact our lives. I mean I didn’t go and ask for the problem I faced.
Politics is a risky and often, dirty business. Are you prepared for the grind?What can we do if its dirty business? Most of the people get away by saying that I am not going to be bothered because its dirty business. But we have to be bothered, otherwise it will overtake us, as it has overtaken my life. I landed myself into a dirty business where I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to lose my child.
Why do you want to join the Congress?Ideologically, I find myself closer to the Congress than any other party.
If you get a ticket, which constituency do you wish to contest from?
That the party will decide. There are much senior people than me with a lot more experience. I will do whatever duty is assigned to me. Even if I don’t get the ticket, I will continue to serve the party and the people in whatever way I can.


From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 10, Dated Mar 14, 2009


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