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MP: Congress govt ends decade-long practice to felicitate Emergency detainees on Independence Day, draws BJP’s ire

FE Online
Kamal Nath, Independence Day celebrations, Madhya Pradesh

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has slammed the Kamal Nath government’s decision to discontinue the practice of felicitating those detained during the Emergency on Independence Day, a report in The Indian Express said. Criticising the Congress government, the opposition BJP asked its district units to hold the felicitation in their local offices.

BJP’s Madhya Pradesh unit chief Rakesh Singh termed the decision as "politics of revenge".

"The Kamal Nath government has a problem honouring people who are very old. It does not have a problem with the Emergency or letting Article 370 continue in Kashmir,'' Singh, who also is Jabalpur Lok Sabha MP, said.

The BJP government had in 2008 introduced a pension scheme for those arrested during Emergency under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and Defence of India Rules (DIR). Under this scheme, the government was providing Rs 6,000 monthly pension to the people who were arrested during Emergency in 1975. Besides, the government had also started felicitating them on the occasion of Independence Day in Bhopal and district headquarters. Later, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government hiked the pension twice to Rs 25,000, bringing on par with the financial assistance given to freedom fighters.

Reacting to the BJP’s allegation, the Congress said that most of the beneficiaries were BJP workers who didn’t go to jail during Emergency.

"The BJP government had started the pension and felicitation to oblige them. One can understand the felicitation of freedom fighters and their family members on August 15,'' Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza said.

After taking over as the CM of Madhya Pradesh in December last year, Chief Minister Kamal Nath had put the pension of the detainees on hold, inviting sharp flak from the opposition BJP. The government had alleged that many didn’t exit and others had availed the benefit fraudulently. Facing ire from the BJP, the government then ordered physical verification of beneficiaries. After months of verification, most beneficiaries started getting the pension again.

The Loktantra Senani Sangathan, the state-level body of MISA and DRI detainees, said that the latest decision was taken out of vengeance. State unit chief of Loktantra Senani Sangathan, Tapan Bhowmik, said that they are not interested in getting honoured by a party that is undemocratic.