Khoon ki dalaali to the fore again
It is said time and history conspire together in either destroying or skewing the narrative of course of events of the past. Add to this combination...
It is said time and history conspire together in either destroying or skewing the narrative of course of events of the past. Add to this combination of T&H, a politician, the result could be a simmering tension.
That is where the agitation for One Rank, One Pension (OROP) stands now, thanks to the politicisation of the issue by both the politicians and the family of the victim, Ram Kishan Grewal.
Ram Kishan Grewal who consumed poison and gave up his life allegedly frustrated over the delay in granting OROP to the defence veterans who are already divided over the issue both for and against the NDA government's formula announced earlier, was not just an Army veteran.
He was also a former sarpanch of his village Bamla in Bhiwani district between 2006 and 2010. Bamla's face was changed in his tenure and it became open defecation-free under the then Congress regime. His village was awarded the Nirmal Gram Puraskar Award too in 2008.
Reports in local media suggest that he was very dedicated as a sarpanch and got the local school upgraded to senior secondary level and got drinking water to every household (without any Missions supporting him) and "Rajwahas' were constructed to ensure proper irrigation of farmland.
Ram Kishan Grewal was a dalit and he did much more than the non-dalits would have done to ensure the uplift of his villagers.
Grewal's suicide should have instigated the veterans to launch their agitation afresh. In the least, it should have provoked a nation-wide debate on the commitment of the Centre to the armed forces welfare, forcing it to speed up the process and remove anomalies in the pension structure. The government had itself tied in knots over the disability pensions issue drawing much flak from all quarters.
The Opposition, particularly the Congress, is eagerly looking forward to encash on any and every issue facing as it does problems with Rahul Gandhi's leadership. His much publicised Kisan rally of Uttar Pradesh simply went unnoticed by the outside world and the party's image was not being helped by any of the headlines of the media of late.
Could this suicide now spark a revival of the fortunes of the Congress to some extent at least is the question now. Issues related to Defence personnel have the potential to breathe life into the decaying party structures at least in Northern India, particularly in the States of Punjab, Haryana, UP and Bihar where one in three households are so sends their young ones to the forces. Hence, the issue now gets a greater space in the public domain.
The fact that Grewal was a dalit only makes the Opposition more committed in this election season. There seems to be something more to the issue than meets the eye any way. The timeline of the episode runs something like this:
On October 31 Ram Kishan Grewal land in Delhi and meets ex-servicemen. (He was already depressed, his sons said). On November 1, a protest at Jantar Mantar was staged and it was decided that Lok Sabha Speaker should be met with along with the Defence Minister.
On the way, Grewal consumes poison and is rushed to RML Hospital at 1.45 p.m where he dies. On November 2, family members arrive to stage protest. AAP MLA Surender Singh joins them. At 12.30 pm, deputy CM Manish Sisodia joins.
At 2 pm, Rahul Gandhi reaches the hospital and tries to meet the family and tries to sneak in through a different entrance, avoiding the locked one. Police arrive at the venue at 2.30 pm on a complaint from the hospital authorities that their work had been stalled due to protests and patients were being inconvenienced a lot. Police whisks away Rahul Gandhi and AAP leaders.
At 3 pm, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal arrives at Lady Hardinge Hospital only to be detained and released later. Protests erupt at Mandir Marg and Parliament Street police Stations till 5 pm and Congress leaders are once again detained for disrupting peace.
During the whole drama, some from the media were aware of the fact that the sons of Grewal were quite active over their mobiles calling up leaders of these parties, claiming they were manhandled and beaten up by the police when they went to collect their father's body.
A question that one of the sons' of Grewal was asking was whether he would get a job. There was no one to verify whether they were really assaulted or beaten up by the police – a mindless act which any police officer, however insensitive, would have ordered.
In no time we find the Congressmen claiming revival of the party under the brilliant leadership of Rahul Gandh "who was forcibly detained by the police and arrested" "Desh badal raha hai bhaiyya" Rahul quips to the media smiling all the way.
November 3 was a day of more photo-ops with several political leaders rushing to Bhiwani to pay homage to the "martyred soldier." All of them insisted that the government apologise and concede the demand of Grewal.
The opposition won’t allow any questions on why Grewal had gone to the Jawahar Bhavan, an External Affairs Ministry complex, to commit suicide whereas the reported plan was to meet the Speaker or Defence Minister.
The OROP was notified last November after a prolonged agitation of the veterans.
The pensioners were divided over the same but the agitation lost steam slowly. None of the Opposition leaders ever raised the issue all these days. But, they see a small window of opportunity in the present suicide to corner the Centre during this election hour.
While the Centre's apathy towards the armed forces itself is condemnable, the Opposition's political opportunism is far more despicable. For the politicians Grewal's death is not for introspection, but an issue to play politics with. His caste is also a matter of concern to them – it is now yet another dalit issue after all.
Above all, these have been waiting for turning the tables on BJP ever since the latter's claims on surgical strikes helped improve its sheen. Whether Grewal's suicide helps the Opposition to blunt the same is to be seen now.
It may sound wrong for sensitive minds that the political parties are making a tamasha of the armed forces and their sacrifices day in and day out. The way proof was asked to be put in public domain by the Opposition of surgical strikes has not helped the cause of the armed forces in any way.
When men of our country are dying on the borders, making their heroic efforts a laughing stock is quite sad.
No doubt, the current issue will rock the upcoming Parliament session too as it could be a talking point in the run-up to the UP and Punjab elections.
The dalit face of the frustrated soldier who paid with his life fighting for the welfare of his fellowmen would be useful to the parties in electioneering.
But, Grewal's cause itself will be lost whether Grewal was forced to consume poison out of depression or whether there was an abetment.
Either for the BJP leadership to cry foul over the same or for the Opposition to convert the death into a weapon to attack the Centre is simply wrong. This happened in case of the encounter of SIMI activists on the run after jail-break in Bhopal too.
For the Congress it was murder of Muslims. BJP retorted "why did you not question the religion or caste of those encountered recently in Andhra-Orissa Border?" Every one does 'Khoon ki Dalaali' it seems.