The Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has stopped a decade-old Independence Day practice of felicitating people detained during the Emergency in 1975, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday.
The practice was started by the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2008. It had also introduced a monthly pension of Rs 6,000 for those detained under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act and Defence of India Rules. They were felicitated in Bhopal and at district headquarters. The pension was later hiked twice to make it Rs 25,000, on par with the amount given to freedom fighters.
The pension was put on hold by Chief Minister Kamal Nath two weeks after he took oath in December. The government ordered physical verification of beneficiaries and claimed that many of them did not exist and others had accessed the benefit fraudulently. But, months after the verification process was over, most beneficiaries got the pension again.
The BJP criticised the Congress government’s decision, and asked its district units to hold the felicitation ceremonies in their offices.
BJP state President Rakesh Singh called this “politics of revenge”. “The Kamal Nath government has a problem honouring people who are very old,” Singh told The Indian Express. “It does not have a problem with the Emergency or letting Article 370 continue in Kashmir.”
The state-level body of MISA and DRI detainees said the decision was taken out of vengeance. “We will not go to them with a request to felicitate us,” said Loktantra Senani Sangathan’s state chief Tapan Bhowmik. “Earlier, the detainees used to get official invites from the office of the district collector. In any case, we are not interested in getting honoured by a party that is undemocratic.”
However, Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza alleged that most of the detainees were BJP workers who did not go to jail during Emergency. “The BJP government had started the pension and felicitation to oblige them,” Oza said. “One can understand the felicitation of freedom fighters and their family members on August 15.”