Delhi Police and civic authorities early on Friday morning attempted to evict several groups protesting at Jantar Mantar, including the group of ex-servicemen demanding the implementation One Rank One Pension (OROP) policy. Jantar Mantar for long has been a designated venue for the protest in the capital. Among various protestors, a group of ex-servicemen has been staging a relay hunger strike since more than two months, pitching their demands before the incumbent Modi government for the roll-out of OROP.
The situation, however, soon came under control after the authorities assured that they will not be moved from the venue.
Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi too met the agitating ex-servicemen expressing solidarity with their protest.
“I haven’t come here to politicise the issue. PM Narendra had announced the implementation of OROP during his election rallies, he must now announce a date for implementing the OROP,” Rahul Gandhi told the press after meeting the ex-soldiers.
Earlier in the day, drama was witnessed at the venue as the protesting ex-servicemen, many of them senior citizens, resisted the drive even as they were allegedly pushed inside the government vehicles. Resisting eviction, the protesting group also claimed that they have a requisite permission to hold the protest.
“This is shocking and obnoxious. Nothing can be worse… The move to remove our tents is barbaric, undemocratic and dictatorial as it comes on the eve of Independence Day,” Maj Gen (Retd) Satbir Singh, Chairman of Indian Ex-servicemen Movement.
It will be a “black Independence Day as they as they have tried to curb our independence,” said group captain V K Gandhi (retired), adding, “The way the police have acted against us just a day before Independence day it is totally unjustified.”
The authorities, on its part, defended their action in the wake of security arrangements for the Independence Day celebrations.
Amid resistance against their eviction, the group of ex-servicemen strongly asserted their plans of holding a day-long hunger strike on Saturday to press their demands further.
Incidentally, just a day ago four former service chiefs submitted an open letter to their Supreme Commander President Pranab Mukherjee requesting his intervention into the lingering matter. The former service chiefs, in their open letter, said that the denial of OROP may have larger ramifications as the delay in its roll-out has already tested “veterans’ patience”.
“It is with a sense of deep anguish that we are writing to draw the attention of the Supreme Commander to the dismal spectacle of our veteran soldiers, driven to undertake public protests and demonstrations to press their demand for the long overdue grant of OROP,” said the letter written by General SF Rodrigues (Retd), Admiral L Ramdas (Retd), Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd) and Admiral Sureesh Mehta (Retd).
It added that the decline in the status of military in India “has been orchestrated” to make it “subservient to the bureaucracy”.
“There does not seem to be adequate realisation that this development has the potential for inflicting long-term damage to India’s proud and a-political military ethos,” the four retired chiefs said in their letter.
Referring to the on-going protests by ex-servicemen at Jantar Mantar, they said “anything which denigrates or humiliates the veteran also hurts the self-esteem of the serving soldier, because he sees himself as tomorrow’s veteran”.
“The recent developments have not only triggered a process of politicization of the Indian military, but also served to inflict grave damage on its morale and self-esteem,” the letter stated.
Claiming that there is a growing feeling in the rank and file that the senior armed forces leadership has not done enough to pursue their cause, the former war chiefs said, “an erosion of confidence such as this could inflict severe damage on the officer-jawan relationship. This is a sacred trust, built on a 350-year old tradition, which we will find very difficult to rebuild”.
(With inputs from the PTI)