A 70-year-old Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal has turned into a celebrity in his death. In his life, he was not known to have any clear political affiliations, but at his funeral hordes of politicians from the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party from Delhi and neighbouring Haryana landed there to play their last respects.
The motive of these politicians was also to make their presence felt in the process.
From the public spectacle that was created by Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal since Wednesday till Thursday afternoon, from Delhi to Bamla village in Bhiwani, Haryana, it was more than clear that these two political leaders and their party colleagues were using Subedar Grewal's death to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. This is, of course, an attempt to reclaim a bit of their lost nationalist credentials in the aftermath of the surgical strike against Pakistan by the present government at the Centre.
Rahul had lost the plot with his khoon ki dalali (broker of blood) remark against Modi about a month ago and Kejriwal had faced severe criticism after he became some kind of a hero in Pakistan for questioning the Modi government on the surgical strikes. The Delhi chief minister even sought proof of the strikes in public.
Till the time he committed suicide on Wednesday, all Subedar Grewal had wished for himself was an increase of about Rs 5,000 in his pension, which he thought he was legitimately entitled to as per the recommendations of Orop and Seventh Pay Commission. In his death, his family would be richer by hundreds of lakhs of rupees probably much more than an increase of 10-12 percent Orop would have given him through the post-retirement monthly pension.
Soon after the former soldier's death, Kejriwal hit the headlines with his frenzied suicide politics by announcing on the spot Rs 1 crore exgratia payment to the family members of the deceased Subedar. Kejriwal's announcement surprised everyone for Subedar Grewal had nothing to do with Delhi and the fact that he chose to commit suicide in the Jawahar Bhawan premises, which houses the Ministry of External Affairs and has nothing to do with the Delhi government. But then in his death, Grewal seemed to have breached all such barriers. Following Kejriwal's Rs 1 crore exgratia move, the BJP-led Haryana government followed suit and announced an exgratia payment of Rs 10 lakh. The Congress party so far has not announced any such relief. That may come later, either by the party or by a state government ruled by the Congress.
It may not be the best occasion to this question but it is still pertinent to raise it -- should somebody be given the status of a "martyr" if he commits suicide not because he was dealt with a heavy hand by the state but just because he felt that he deserved more pension after his retirement. He died by consuming poisonous substance at his own will and before he died he called up his son to tell him that he was about to die. That conversation was recorded, either by the son or by Grewal and released to the media after his death. It also raises a question that in this situation of extreme distress when a person is about to die, or a son who heard that his father is about to die cared to first put that conversation on record so that it could be used later to whip up passion.
Committing suicide is a crime according to the Indian law. But the two state governments — Kejriwal's Delhi government and Manoharlal Khattar's in Haryana — in an apparent game of political upmanship, announced a hefty financial reward for committing suicide. What kind of governance is that? By committing suicide Subedar Grewal didn't do what he was trained to do, be a fighter.
He didn't lay his life on the line of duty, or while trying to the save honour and prestige of his village, state or nation, or while doing something which would have brought some laurels to the place where he lived. But he chose to die for a few thousands of rupees which he thought was his and the government was not paying. More so, he didn't do when the successive governments had turned deaf ears to the issue. Subedar Grewal ended his life at a time when the Orop issue had made some progress. The present government had negotiated with the veterans and made an announcement. Some enterprising persons had filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the recommendations made by the government and the matter is pending at the apex court. Subedar Grewal would surely have known that.
Though his death shocks the nation and is a matter of deep regret but should that mean that the 70-year-old retired Subedar who had also been the village sarpanch be eulogised as a hero, just because it suits politics of Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal.