New Delhi: "I have consumed poison, I am at Jawahar Bhawan," said retired Subedar Ram Kishen Grewal, 65, in his last phone call to his son, before he died.
The Army veteran, his family said, was trying to meet Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with a petition to demand an increase in pension that he had been promised under the government's One-Rank One Pay or OROP scheme.
Speaking in a clear voice Subedar Grewal is heard in an audio recording of the phone call as saying, "What is happening to us is disastrous. Jawans haven't got justice."
The subedar, who participated in protests over OROP at Delhi's Jantar Mantar, said he was killing himself as a "sacrifice for my jawans and country." The recording is from his son Jaswant Grewal phone, said a Delhi government official. (NDTV cannot verify the authenticity of the audio recording)
As Opposition parties accused the government of failing to implement OROP, Union Minister and former Army chief General VK Singh triggered a controversy by saying about the Subedar's death, "He has committed suicide. No one knows the reason behind it. OROP is being shown as the reason. What his mental state was we do not know. Let it be probed first. OROP should be kept above politics."
"Shame on u VKSingh. He twice got medals from President and once from COAS. He was a decorated soldier (sic)" tweeted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was detained by the police on Wednesday evening as he tried to meet the veteran's family, who too have been detained at a police station.
Jaswant Grewal said the police had given them no reason for their detention. "What VK Singh has said is condemnable," he said.
On a video released by the Congress, Jaswant alleged that he and his family were "abused and thrashed" by the police when they tried to meet Rahul Gandhi. The video has shots from inside a police station and several cops are seen pulling at him as he pleads, "Please don't do this."
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi too was detained, twice, when he attempted to meet Subedar Grewal's family.
The ex-serviceman allegedly poisoned himself on the lawns of Jawahar Bhawan, a government building in Delhi on Tuesday afternoon. In a suicide note he said he had still not received the increased pension promised to him by the government under OROP.
OROP grants pension parity for those who retired years ago with those at the same rank retiring now.