Bhiwani (Haryana): Veteran Ram Kishan Grewal was cremated on Thursday in the presence of hundreds of mourners in a Haryaya village amid political slugfest over his suicide, with Minister and former Army Chief V.K. Singh first questioning the soldier's mental health and now calling him a Congress worker.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal joined the mass of people at Grewal's Bamla village in Haryana's Bhiwani district for his cremation. Gandhi met the dead soldier's widow and other family members.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Kejriwal announced Rs 1 crore compensation for the family, saying the Delhi government, in line with its policy, considered Grewal a "martyr". This drew a sharp response from the BJP.
Kejriwal, standing with the dead man's son Jaswant, said: "The whole nation will now fight for the implementation of OROP and we will force the government to implement it for our soldiers."
Asked about allegations that he was doing politics over Grewal's death, Kejriwal replied: "Yes, we are doing politics. We are doing politics to secure the soldiers' rights and the central government is doing politics to cheat the soldiers."
Jaswant alleged that Delhi Police "kicked and abused" some of his family members on Wednesday before taking them to a police station where they were kept for hours. "No one should suffer the way we have... We are in pain."
On Wednesday, Delhi Police detained Kejriwal, his Deputy Manish Sisodia, Rahul Gandhi and Grewal's family members for several hours before releasing them late at night. No charges were filed against any of them.
There was chaos on Thursday at the Grewal residence with many political leaders, including Derek O' Brien of the Trinamool, joining the mourners from in and around Bamla.
A former Rajputana Rifles subedar, the 70-year-old allegedly consumed poison at a Delhi park on Tuesday demanding the immediate implementation of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme - which, among other measures, ensures equal pension to retired soldiers who served with the same rank and for the same duration.
As the political war over the veteran's suicide intensified, Delhi Police said it has started "inquest proceedings" into his death.
The case was handed over to the Crime Branch considering the gravity of the issue, Joint Commissioner of Police Ravindra Yadav said.
Grewal was the village head for five years and was associated with a number of development projects in and around Bamla.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, announcing a grant of Rs 10 lakh to the grieving family, refused to call Grewal a martyr because, he argued, "those who commit suicide cannot" be called be called so.
"He committed suicide for personal reasons," Khattar said.
Shattered by the suicide, Grewal's family demanded a probe into his death. His son Kulwant said the politics over his father's death should end.
"He should be declared a martyr as he gave his life for the OROP cause," Kulwant said.
Former Army Chief V.K. Singh said Grewal was a "Congress worker" and his suicide was not related to OROP.
"He had become the sarpanch on Congress ticket. His issue was with the bank, not with OROP," the Minister of State for External Affairs told reporters.
But Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar acknowledged that some issues related to the ex-soldiers' pension payment were not addressed and that one lakh defence veterans of the total 20 lakh would be be paid in two months.
"There are some technical issues in the implementation (of the scheme). We will soon sort out the paperwork. In the next two months, we will finalise it," Parrikar said at an army function in Kashmir.
And Kejriwal blamed the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), and not Delhi Police, for Wednesday's detention drama. He said the PMO had masterminded his, Sisodia's and Gandhi's detention.