Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was detained by police outside Delhi’s RML hospital on Wednesday afternoon within minutes of a similar action against deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and his party MLA Surinder Singh. Later in the day, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal too said he was detained.
Gandhi and Kejriwal were going to meet the family of a retired soldier from Haryana, Ram Kishan Grewal, who allegedly consumed poison and died in RML hospital on Wednesday morning.
The veteran, his friends alleged, was unhappy as the one rank one pension (Orop) scheme had failed to meet his expectations.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, who is an MLA from Haryana and was with Gandhi, too, was detained. They were all taken to the Parliament Street police station.
Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia was also detained.
“I don’t have anything to say, police will do what it has to for risk reduction,” home minister Rajnath Singh said when questioned about Rahul Gandhi’s detention.
The BJP criticised Gandhi for “doing politics” over the suicide. Party spokesman Nalin Kohli said, “there is a time and place for everything”.
Gandhi was initially detained in the Mandir Marg police station and was later shifted to South Avenue police station. According to latest reports, he was detained for the second time and taken to Tilak Marg police station.
The Delhi Police said that proper procedure was followed during the protests and no one has been arrested so far.
“When leaders along with crowd started gathering at RML, medical services got severely affected and orderliness deteriorated,” the Delhi Police said in a tweet.
“Despite several requests when they didn’t move, leaders and protesting followers were removed to Police stations and detained.”
“Family members of the deceased are also being spoken to,” they said in another tweet.
Video showing Congress VP inside police station
The politics over the suicide is heating up, with Aam Aadmi Party chief Kejriwal targeting the Modi government.
“Both farmers and soldiers are committing suicide in Modi Raj. That means the Prime Minister is lying that OROP has been implemented. Why would Ram Kishan ji have committed suicide if OROP was being implemented?” Kejriwal tweeted.
He later tried to enter Lady Hardinge hospital, also in central Delhi, but was denied entry. Grewal’s body is being kept at hospital awaiting a post mortem examination.
Formally detained by the police. No idea where they are taking me.— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 2, 2016
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.
Sisodia and Surinder Singh were detained for shouting slogans and staging a sit-in at the hospital, police said. The two AAP leaders were leading a group of supporters shouting slogans against the Modi government following Grewal’s death.
The 70-year-old retired soldier allegedly swallowed sulphas tablets on Tuesday afternoon and was rushed to RML hospital where he died Wednesday morning.
Anticipating trouble, paramilitary troops, police vans and buses were stationed outside the hospital in the morning itself.
Police said AAP leaders’ conduct was illegal as it disturbed peace in a hospital. A case may be registered against the two leaders. Singh, who represents Delhi Cantonment in the Delhi assembly, already has two cases against him.
Rahul Gandhi, who was denied entry before being detained, had in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 29 asked him to “meaningfully implement Orop”.
The Congress slammed the detention. Gandhi had gone alone to meet Grewal’s family and had violated no law. His detention was illegal, Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said.
The alleged suicide comes two days after Modi said the government had paid nearly R5,500 crore towards Orop, fulfilling the promise he made to ex-servicemen. He was speaking in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district where he celebrated Diwali with soldiers.