Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi vented anger at policemen on Wednesday after the detention of the family members of a retired soldier who allegedly committed suicide over unfilled expectations regarding his pension.
“Do you not feel ashamed? He is a son of an army veteran, he is his father... and you are arresting them?” Gandhi told policemen, pointing towards deceased Ram Kishan Grewal’s son and father.
Gandhi was detained outside Delhi’s RML Hospital, where the 70-year-old Grewal died after allegedly consuming poison, within minutes of a similar action against deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and his party MLA Surinder Singh. They had gone to meet the family of Grewal, a resident of Haryana.
“What is your name? You think the family of India’s martyr should be arrested?,” Gandhi asked a senior police officer at Mandir Marg police station where he was taken after being detained.
“A martyr’s family is arrested. This is (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji’s India,” he earlier told reporters outside the hospital.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal posted on Twitter that he “spoke to his (the retired soldier’s) son just now. He said he was manhandled by police.”
He also said he was going to meet Grewal’s family. And moments later he posted that he too was detained.
Formally detained by the police. No idea where they are taking me.— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 2, 2016
Grewal, his friends alleged, was unhappy as the one rank one pension (Orop) scheme had failed to meet his expectations. Though Orop was rolled out in September 2015 but ex-servicemen say it has failed to address their concerns. The scheme promises equal pension to military personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of the date of retirement.
Gandhi asked the Prime Minister to implement one rank one pension scheme in a meaningful way. He said soldiers should not have to struggle to claim their dues.
Gandhi, who was keen to meet the ex-serviceman’s family, was requested by a police officer to leave the place in view of his security. He, in turn, demanded that the official tell the media what orders he had received.
“They are telling me to go away from here and leave. I told you, a new India is being formed,” he said as high drama unfolded outside the hospital.
Home minister Rajnath Singh, however, defended Delhi Police’s action after they detained the opposition leaders.
“Whatever has to be done for risk reduction, the Delhi Police will do,” he said. Delhi Police report to the Union home ministry.
Singh downplayed the Congress leader’s outburst against the detention of Grewal’s family members and said the long pending ‘one rank one pension’ issue.
Delhi Police too said that proper procedure was followed during the protests and no one had been arrested.
But lashing out at the Modi government, Gandhi said: “A new India is in the making, you have to identify it. What is happening in India today, you have to identify it. It is a result of their mentality. It is a particular type of mentality. It is an undemocratic type of mentality.”
“How can you arrest the son and father of martyr? And if you have not arrested them, then why are you not letting them go,” he said after his request for releasing Grewal’s family was turned down.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, who was also detained along with Haryana CLP leader Kiran Chowdhury, dubbed the action as “naked goondaism” of the Modi government.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee condemned the detention of opposition leaders.
“Very sad that one of our former jawans committed suicide. Unfortunate that Rahul Gandhi and Manish Sisodia were stopped from visiting bereaved family,” Banerjee tweeted.
“This is all happening in the name of political vendetta. Issues like these make me deeply concerned about national integrity and unity,” she added.