But the suicide of Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal has exposed the diabolical mindset of the ideology which is trying to create a monolithic Hindu structure.
It is not surprising that the Modi government has not fulfilled the promises it made to ex-soldiers on the issue of OROP. What is surprising is the reaction of the government, the Delhi police, BJP ministers and senior BJP leaders. An army man is dead due to the indifferent attitude of the government, but he is being ridiculed and maligned by the BJP-RSS. A minster who was the Army Chief not too long ago suggested he could be mentally unstable and wanted his mental condition to be stated. The Chief Minister of Haryana, M L Khattar, and his minister Anil Vij raised questions about Ram Kishan Grewal being called a martyr because he had committed suicide. These gentlemen have forgotten that Veer Shaheed Chandra Shekhar Azad shot himself dead while fighting the English police at Alfred Park, Allahabad, during the time of freedom movement and whole world reveres him as great patriot and a martyr. By the logic of BJP-RSS, Azad is not a martyr and his mental status should be examined! This is ridiculous and reflects the ideological bankruptcy of the BJP-RSS.
Their reaction also does not reflect Hindu tradition. In Hindu tradition, the dead are never insulted, humiliated or ridiculed even if they be an enemy. Tragically, these gentlemen claim to be the upholders of Hindu tradition. But let’s not forget that these were the forces who distributed sweets after the killing of Mahatma Gandhi. None other than Sardar Patel said so in his letter to the RSS chief Guruji Golwalkar. These were the leaders who mocked the death of Rohith Vemula too, the Dalit boy from Hyderabad University. It was also claimed that he was not a Dalit.
The BJP and Modi want to garner votes in the name of surgical strikes but if you look at their track record, this is the government which has taken the most anti-army measures in its tenure. The disability pension was halved by the Modi government. And very recently, the army officers’ profile was downgraded vis-a-vis civilian officers and no explanation was ever offered by the government. After the surgical strikes, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar went to the extent of insinuating that the army had not done anything for the country since independence. Parrikar called the army “Hanuman” who had to be made aware of its potential (by him) so that it could then carry out a surgical strike. Can anything be more insulting to the Indian army than this? This is the army which has fought 4 successful wars with Pakistan including the one for the creation of Bangladesh. Either this government has no sense of history or they have no respect for the army and soldiers. In hindsight, both seem true.
This is the same government which had announced that OROP was sanctioned. Prime Minister Modi had announced this a few days before the suicide of Ram Kishan. If OROP had been granted to the satisfaction of the soldiers, then why has he committed suicide? Minutes before his death, while talking to his son in a phone conversation whose audio clip is being played on TV, he is clearly heard saying that he had taken poison as he was unhappy with the government not granting OROP as demanded by ex-soldiers. He said that he was taking this extreme step so that justice could be done. The suicide was his expression of protest to the attitude of the government. Ram Kishan was no ordinary soldier. He was twice decorated by the President and also by the Chief of the Army Staff. If a man of his character has to take this extreme step, then it has to be understood in the proper context. He had done enough for the country to earn respect, not ridicule, by BJP leaders after his death. It is sad; it is demeaning his supreme sacrifice. Let’s have no doubts that he is a martyr.
But a more frightening thing has also happened. If it is not contested now, it will shake the foundations of Indian democracy. There is a serious attempt to turn a vibrant democracy into a police state. Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia were both detained by the police for more than six hours. Even Rahul Gandhi was not spared despite SPG protection. No reason was ever given. When contacted, the Police Commissioner of Delhi feigned helplessness, indicative of the fact that the Joint Commissioner of Police in charge of the area was directly getting instruction from someone higher than the Police Chief.
Can you imagine a similar situation in any other state? How can a police officer detain a democratically-elected Chief Minister and his Deputy? Can the Bihar police detain Nitish Kumar? Or in UP, can the police stop Akhilesh Yadav from meeting any one in a hospital? How can a sitting Chief Minister be treated as a threat to the law and order? It is the duty of an elected Chief Minister to meet the family of a deceased army man’s family and offer condolences. But Arvind Kejariwal and Manish Sisodia were denied that right. Let me remind you that this is the same Delhi Police which has arrested 14 AAP MLAs on fake, frivolous and baseless charges. If in a democracy, the police gets precedence over the democratically elected Chief Minister, or people’s representatives, and not accorded the respect which he/she deserves, then the signal is not good. Democracy won’t survive if the police is not accountable to the elected representatives and does not offer the respect which the constitution demands.
The same police was so drunk with power that it even roughed up the son of Ram Kishan Grewal, detained him for long, and did not let him go near the body of his father. Has Indian democracy become so insensitive or fragile that it is scared of a dead soldier?
A dead soldier has shown the chinks in the armour of the Modi government; it has burst the bubble of nationalism which Modi and Parrikar have been trying to float. It raises the uncomfortable question: how can a government which is so gung-ho about the army ill-treat its own soldiers and lie about its promises? A government which has floundered on all fronts i.e., when industrial output is at a ten-year low, joblessness is the highest in the last six years, Kashmir is boiling, and the relationship with Pakistan has plummeted -well, then nationalism is the only plank which could have earned dividends for the Modi government, BJP and RSS. Ram Kishan’s death has changed things at a most inopportune time with assembly elections in five states round the corner. But now there are signs of nervousness in the BJP and Modi camp. The tide is turning. Detaining Arvind Kejariwal will not help a desperate party and its leader; rather, it will sharpen the crisis. People are not fools. They are watching.
(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January 2014.)