Twice today – in the afternoon and then again in the evening – opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was detained by the Delhi Police as he attempted to meet with the family of the army veteran who committed suicide over an insufficient pension.
The death of Mr Grewal, 65, who drank poison at a government building on Tuesday and spoke in his suicide note of the sacrifices of jawans not being honoured, has corralled opposition leaders into attacking the government for failing to implement the One-Rank-One-Pension (OROP) scheme.
Currently, military personnel who retire get paid more than former servicemen who served at the same rank and for the same amount of time. The OROP programme is meant to equalize pension payments. The government approved of the new policy in September, but it has yet to be implemented, say army officers, who are opposed to OROP plans to reconcile the rate of payments of current and past pensioners every five years; they say the review must happen more frequently.
Mr Gandhi was taken away by the Delhi Police first when he tried to visit the hospital where Mr Grewal’s relatives were with his body. After they were moved to a different hospital, Mr Gandhi repeated his endeavour with the same effect.
During his first forced stay at a police station, he was filmed on a cellphone rebuking the police for also detaining Mr Grewal’s son, who had protested outside the hospital where his father’s body lay, along with members of the Aam Aadmi Party. “Have you no shame,” Mr Gandhi said to the cops, asking them how they could justify action against the son of an army veteran fighting for his rights.
He was later shifted to another police station as hundreds of Congress workers had gathered outside the first one he was taken to, before being released. He was in detention for nearly two hours.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said this evening that he was being prevented from meeting the family of the army veteran who had reportedly complained that they were being “manhandled” at a central Delhi police station. Hours earlier, his deputy, Manish Sisodia, had also not been allowed to meet with Mr Grewal’s family.
Mr Kejriwal asserted that Ram Kishan Grewal’s “martyrdom will not go in vain” and emphasised on the need to take his struggle forward, saying a country where soldiers and farmers commit suicide have no future.
“The Prime Minister is lying to the entire country claiming that OROP has been implemented. If it was implemented then why Ram Kishan had to commit suicide? The extent of the deceit of the BJP government over the issue is unprecedented,” Mr Kejriwal said in a video message.
Mr Kejriwal also used the occasion to take swipe at the BJP over the issue of surgical strikes and the recent controversies on ‘downgrading’ of military ranks and the ‘cuts’ in disability pension of defence personnel.
This is what he tweeted :
Manish Sisodia detained? He had gone to meet family of deceased Ram Kishan ji. He is elected Dy CM. Whats wrong wid u Modiji? So insecure?
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 2, 2016
The police have said they had warned Mr Gandhi and other politicians detained today like Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia of the Aam Aadmi Party not to obstruct hospital work. “Delhi Police will not allow any obstruction at a hospital. They were making speeches. Leaders should understand they can’t do politics here,” a police officer said.
“Police will do what it has to for risk reduction,” said Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.