New Delhi [India], December 9 (ANI): Alleging that the Centre did not allow the Opposition Members of Parliament to pay their last respects to Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 defence personnel who lost their lives in a military helicopter crash, in the Rajya Sabha, Leader of Opposition in the Upper House, Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday alleged that Opposition parties were forced to pay tributes to the deceased outside Parliament.
Earlier today, the Opposition leaders called off their ongoing sit-in dharna against the suspension of the 12 Rajya Sabha MPs for the day as a mark of respect towards General Bipin Rawat and 12 others who lost their lives in the chopper crash.
Addressing a press conference, Kharge said, "May the families of soldiers get the strength to bear the loss. We pray for the speedy recovery of the injured personnel."
"We stand here today to pay tributes to CDS General Bipin Rawat and others who lost their lives in the tragic chopper crash. Rajnath Singh delivered a statement in Parliament. I, being the leader of Opposition and all of the floor leaders wanted to pay our tributes and speak for 1 minute each. But neither the government nor the Chair allowed us to do so," Kharge said.
Kharge also condemned the incident inside the Parliament.
"If we do not get a chance to pay our tributes to the Chief of Defence staff, then what kind of democracy is it? How is this Parliament being led? We condemn this act of not allotting us time to pay our tributes. So we decided to call off this protest of the suspended MPs from the House for one day," he said.
RJD MP Manoj Jha said that the government has missed an opportunity to "break the ice" by not allowing the Opposition to pay tribute inside the Parliament.
"It was an unfortunate moment. There should have been a one-minute message from everyone in the House. The government has committed a huge mistake today. This mistake would be registered in History because when the country is mourning today, the government did not make an attempt to break the ice," said Jha.
"The entire country is mourning. Everyone in the meeting under the Leader of Opposition said that it is time to pay tribute along with the nation. All of our suspended MPs decided that there will not be any protest today because a message had to be sent to the nation today. But they have problems even in paying tributes. They could have utilized the opportunity today in conveying a collective message," added the Rajya Sabha MP added.
Jha paid his tributes to the ones who lost their lives in the chopper crash.
"May the almighty provide strength to all the grieving families to bear the loss. We pray for the speedy recovery of Group Captain Varun Singh who is struggling on the life support system," he said.
General Rawat was travelling from Sulur to Wellington when his helicopter crashed near Tamil Nadu's Coonoor.
General Rawat, India's first CDS, was on a visit to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course when his chopper crashed.
A total of 14 people were on board the IAF's helicopter. Group Captain Varun Singh is the lone survivor of the crash and is presently on life support in Military Hospital, Wellington.
Those who died in the crash include General Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat, his Defence Adviser Brigadier Lakhbinder Singh Lidder, Staff Officer Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh and nine other Armed Forces personnel including the Air Force helicopter crew.
Their names are Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan, Squadron Leader Kuldeep Singh, Junior Warrant Officer Rana Pratap Das, Junior Warrant Officer Arakkal Pradeep, Havildar Satpal Rai, Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitendra Kumar, Lance Naik Vivek Kumar, Lance Naik B Sai Teja. (ANI)