Delhi Police in scuffle with ex-servicemen at '1 rank, 1 pay' protest site

Both Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Ninister Arvind Kejriwal today joined former servicemen in protesting the delay in the implementation of one rank, one pension (OROP).

"The Prime Minister should give a date as to when he can bring in OROP. All this protest will end then," Gandhi said at Jantar Mantar where ex-military men are staging a demonstration over their demand.

"People from the armed forces and jawans spend their lives on the border. They are protesting now and they shouldn't be removed," he said, after many of the ex servicemen were manhandled and forcibly removed from Jantar Mantar.

Chief Minister Kejriwal, reacting to the police action, asked whether the ruling dispensation is attempting to state that those who helped us get independence have now become a threat.

Earlier, police on Friday evicted ex-servicemen who were protesting in the heart of the capital, but later allowed them to continue with the protest.

In a crackdown apparently linked to Saturday's Independence Day celebrations, police and civic employees swooped on the protesting retired soldiers at the Jantar Mantar protest site, leading to scuffles.

 Deputy Commissioner of Police Vijay Singh said that all protesters were being evicted from the area for security reasons ahead of Saturday as part of a drive by the New Delhi Municipal Council.

As the ex-servicemen refused to move, saying they had the permission to stage their sit-in, some police personnel brought down the tent and tried to take away a portable generator. This led to scuffles between the police personnel and the former soldiers.

"We have the permission to hold the protest and have been protesting peacefully. This is an attempt to get rid of us as they don't have an answer to our demands," said Col (Retd) Anil Kaul, Vir Chakra, and spokesman for the United Front of Ex-Servicemen.

 As criticism of the forcible eviction mounted, the authorities did a quick U-turn and allowed the ex-servicemen to reclaim the site.

"We got a verbal go ahead from the home ministry and Delhi Police to carry on with our protest," Kaul later told IANS.

"We did not want to move. Some people were injured in the scuffle, but there were minor injuries," he added.

A section of former soldiers had been on a relay hunger strike on the issue at Jantar Mantar here since 15 June.

Ex-servicemen are demanding that pension payable to each rank should be the same irrespective of when they retire. The OROP, if implemented, will benefit 25 lakh ex-servicemen.