Army veteran Ram Kishan Grewal committed suicide on Wednesday over the One Rank One Pension issue, which led to a day of high political drama in New Delhi.
As the day progressed, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia were all detained by the Delhi Police, and stopped from meeting the dead soldier's family. In addition, Grewal's relatives were also beaten up by the police.
For its part, the incensed Opposition united against what it called the BJP's double-speak on the armed forces, and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apologise to the nation and the armed forces over his claims that OROP had been implemented.
Grewal committed suicide early on Wednesday morning, and in his suicide note, claimed he hadn't received the revised pension promised under OROP. He mentioned how he was among thousands of others in the armed forces who had not received the revised pension.
At the end of note, he wrote: "I am sacrificing my life for my country, my motherland and my country's brave soldiers."
The controversy erupted in earnest after the Delhi Police detained Gandhi, who was on his way to meet Grewal's kin. In fact, Gandhi was detained twice within a span of four hours, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy CM Manish Sisodia were also detained and stopped from meeting the family.
Soon after Gandhi was first detained, a video surfaced wherein Grewal's kin were heard telling the Congress vice-president how they were beaten up and abused by the Delhi Police, which is under control of the Union Home Ministry.
Former Union Home Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram later tweeted: "Home Minister should remove the Police Commissioner. If he is powerless to do so, he should tender his resignation."
Home Minister should remove the Police Commissioner. If he is powerless to do so, he should tender his resignation.— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) November 2, 2016
Labelling the detention of Grewal's family members as 'shameful' and symbolic of the 'undemocratic mentality' of the Modi government, a livid Gandhi told policemen: "Do you not feel ashamed? He is the son of an army veteran, and you are arresting them?"
Kejriwal, in his scathing remarks, targeted the Prime Minister and accused him of lying on the implementation of OROP. Kejriwal said Modi should apologise to the nation. "If OROP had been implemented, why would Ram Kishanji commit suicide?" he asked.
Claiming that the army was being misused for political reasons by the Modi government, Kejriwal added the kind of deception that the government had engaged in with soldiers had never taken place before.
Former Defence Minister and senior Congress leader AK Antony also accused the PM of lying about the implementation of OROP, and said if it would have happened, this tragedy could have been averted. He said: "If they have any kind of loyalty or sympathy for the armed forces, my humble request to the Prime Minister is to please apologise to the family, and to the nation, for misleading them that they have already implemented the OROP."
Even West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee extended support to the Congress and AAP leaders and tweeted: "Very sad one of our former jawans committed suicide. Unfortunate that Rahul Gandhi & Manish Sisodia stopped from visiting bereaved family." She went on to add: "What is happening? Unprecedented. A CM is detained in his own state. He cannot move about freely. Unacceptable." Banerjee's Trinamool Congress has sent a party representative to Delhi to take stock of the situation.
Prime Minister's 'high saddle'
The political drama continued throughout the day, and ended late in the evening when Gandhi and Kejriwal, among others, were let off.
Emerging from the Tilak Marg Police Station, Gandhi said the Government of India should respect its people and its soldiers.
Speaking to media, he questioned whether it was his fault that he went to express his condolences to the family. "I wanted to meet them, is it wrong?" he asked, and went on to add that "this is not the way the country is run".
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, who was also detained along with Gandhi, asked the Prime Minister to introspect and come down from the "high saddle that he is sitting upon". "He is unable to see the pain and suffering of the same armed forces in whose name he does politics. But when it comes to giving them justice, he treats them with great disrespect and insults them and their families," Surjewala added.
BJP's double-speak on armed forces
The BJP's top leaders have been accused of cashing in on the valour of India's armed forces for political gains in poll-bound states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Since the surgical strikes across the LoC on 29 September, many leaders have publicly played up the strikes, while insisting that those asking questions are belittling the armed forces.
But Wednesday's developments have put the ruling combine on the back foot, with the Opposition gunning for the BJP on how it treats army veterans and their kin.
The Opposition, especially the Congress, wants to highlight how the BJP government has diluted OROP, and how, amid all the hype of surgical strikes, the government dramatically reduced pensions for soldiers disabled during military service just a day after these strikes.
Even the downgrading of the status of army officers vis-a-vis civilian officers of the Army Headquarters is likely to be part of the Opposition's ammunition in targeting the government.
Moreover, the treatment meted out to Grewal's family will be the focal point of the Congress's aggressive campaign against the Modi government, whom the party is holding responsible for Grewal's suicide.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
More in Catch