Make no mistake. Had the alleged suicide of Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal happened at his village, Bhiwani in Haryana, the high drama staged on Wednesday at RML hospital compound in Delhi would not have happened in this magnitude. But, the retired solider chose to end his life at the heart of the national capital, only a few minutes of drive for OB vans of most television channels. That changed the whole narrative. The grief of the family of the dead solider and the difficulties faced by scores of other patients at the hospital were overshadowed by the political ruckus.
For politicians, it was an irresistible opportunity to score a brownie point by ensuring their images were adequately captured in television cameras at the expense of the dead solider. For them, it didn’t really matter whether their entourage created chaos at the hospital premises, disrupted its functions and caused difficulties to patients. Going by reports, it would have been difficult for any patient or their aides to make their way in or out of the hospital for most part of the day.
All that mattered for the politicians was to wind up their day on a strong note (read marking their presence on TV screens). No one can blame the Delhi police if they resorted to detain Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, Delhi CM Kejriwal or his deputy Manish Sisodia. The commotion and ruckus created by the politicians there was such. Like the politician on the prowl, the policeman too has to do what he has to do.
In the first place, one wonders why Grewal resorted to the extreme step. The reported reason for Grewal’s act was that he wasn’t yet given the increased pension amount under the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme. But, the subsequent clarification, going by reports from the government, shows that Grewal's pension had not been held back. "The problem arose at the bank end," government sources said, adding that of more than 20 lakh pensioners, only one lakh are still to get full disbursement of funds. If this statement is true, i.e. if the delay to transfer the increased pension amount was on account of a procedural delay at the bank end, there wasn’t reason for the retired solider to terminate his life in this manner.
One could only wish that Grewal had approached the relevant organisations or courts to seek justice, instead of terminating his life in a manner not befitting a veteran solider. Of course, the actual reasons that prompted him to take this extreme step and whether there was anyone who encouraged him with political motives, need to be investigated.
But the political circus that followed Grewal’s alleged suicide was even more deplorable. The likes of Gandhi and Kejriwal could have waited for a few more hours till the body of the dead former solider was taken out of the hospital compound to avoid creating difficulties for other patients in the hospital. (In fact, certain reports say Grewal’s body had already been moved to another hospital by the time politicians reached RML and the entire drama unfolded.) A symbolic gesture to offer their condolences like making a phone call to Grewal's family or using social media would have sufficed. This would have also spared the family the torture of being deprived their privacy.
But, the political meter doesn’t detect human emotions, only political opportunities, even at the cost of a soldier’s life. It was a golden opportunity for opposition parties to make a move against the political rivals, hence the commotion.
Even a kid would understand that the long queue of high-profile politicians outside RML wasn’t prompted by their heartfelt sorrow post the soldier’s demise. We don’t normally see any national-level politician visiting the families of soldiers, who are killed by enemy fire almost every month while guarding the border or killed during terrorist attacks. Aren’t their sacrifices important enough for a visit to the family? Instead, the solider is often used for political gains, for which we have a recent example in the aftermath of the 29 September surgical attacks across LoC, when the sacrifice of the solider who staked his life in the enemy soil was politicised heavily to win voters in poll bound states.
This is not to say that the dead soldier’s family didn’t deserve any sympathy from political leaders, be it of any political party. But, had there been any sincerity in the approach of our politicians to solve the concerns of the retired soldiers, they would not have been forced to take their protests to the streets in the first place. The soldier who has spent his entire life guarding the nation deserved to be treated with dignity. Also, in the case of Grewal, political leaders should have respected the privacy and grief of the surviving members of the family, instead of doubling their pain with the ruckus. According to reports, some family members of Grewal too were detained by the police, following the ruckus and Grewal's family has alleged that the cops beat them up when they emerged from the hospital. Of course, the police confronted with a situation of breach of order wouldn’t care to see to which side the people before them belonged. The onus here undoubtedly lies on the politicians, not the police.
As mentioned above, the real reasons and circumstances that led to Grewal’s suicide needs to be probed, including the source of the poison he allegedly consumed and the fact that whether he was pushed by anyone to commit this act. Nevertheless, the political drama unveiled at RML on Wednesday was unwarranted. It served no purpose other than adding to the pain of the family of the dead solider and only tells us that our politicians live a big lie.