New Delhi - Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal were detained by police on Wednesday (Nov 2) when they tried to meet the family of a retired soldier who killed himself amid an ongoing dispute over pension payments.
Ram Kishan Grewal, a 70-year-old soldier, reportedly consumed poison on Tuesday (Nov 1).
Retired soldiers have been demanding that soldiers who retire at the same rank and have served the same number of years receive the same pension, to address a disparity in pensions.
The issue took a bizarre turn on Wednesday, disintegrating into chaos as the police prevented politicians and their supporters from trying to meet members of the soldier's family.
Mr Gandhi was first detained during the day outside the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital and again in the evening by the police, who said they were trying to maintain order and "control the situation".
The police in a statement said that a crowd had started forming outside the hospital and Mr Gandhi and his supporters were detained to prevent any disruption to hospital services .
Mr Gandhi spent two hours at a police station after he was detained the first time as Congress workers and leaders protested against his "illegal" detention. He was detained in the evening again but later released.
As the federal police report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, Mr Gandhi and other opposition leaders accused the police and government of high handedness.
"This is a particular type of mentality... they don't believe in democracy... This is the new India in the making," Mr Gandhi told media after being stopped from going into the hospital to meet the family.
Similarly, Mr Kejriwal too said he was stopped from meeting the family.
The Delhi chief minister tweeted that he was going to meet the soldier's son who amid protest was detained by the police. Mr Kejriwal later tweeted that he too had been detained by the police.
"Formally detained by the police. No idea where they are taking me," he tweeted.
The police took Mr Kejriwal to a police station.
The pension issue has been a highly emotive issue in India with all political parties keen to gain political mileage and win the support of the armed forces.
While Mr Modi has agreed to implement the so-called "one rank, one pension" scheme, retired soldiers are unhappy with its formulation. For instance, they want their pensions to be reviewed annually while the government is agreeable to a review once every five years,
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition parties accused each other of trying to exploit the soldier's death for its own ends.