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Home > News > Report

Many MPs skip 1857 event

Syed Firdaus Ashraf in New Delhi | May 11, 2007 11:32 IST

Many Members of Parliament skipped the official celebration marking 150 years of the First War of Independence on Friday morning. Less than a dozen MPs turned up for the event at the Red Fort in New Delhi.

Among those present were, of course, the President, Vice-President, prime minister and Lok Sabha Speaker.

Former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Inder Kumar Gujral were present as was Congress party president Sonia Gandhi.

The Rediff Special: 1857, the First War of Independence

Ramdas Athavale, the Lok Sabha MP from Pandharpur, Maharashtra, and one of the few MPs who attended the event, told, "I am surprised. I didn't see many of my colleagues. I don't know if there is some other sitting arrangement for them but I didn't meet anyone here."

MPs who attended the function had to alight from their cars 200 metres from the event; security personnel ferried them in another vehicle to the venue.

"Maybe, some of them didn't like this idea," one MP said, on condition that he would not be identified for this report. "The function was to be held at 7 am but even MPs were told to be seated at 6 am and wait for the prime minister and President."

Another reason could, of course, be the results of the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, which were declared on Friday morning.

Said Parag Jain, general secretary, Delhi City Congress Committee, "Where is the national interest? I am shocked to see not even a dozen MPs turning up for this historic event. These MPs are more bothered about the UP election."

In constrast to the poor parliamentary turnout, nearly 50,000 people arrived from all over the country to commemorate the event. On May 9, 1857, 85 Indian army sepoys were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by the British after they refused to use cartridges laced with cow and pig fat. In reaction to that verdict, the very next day, May 10, 1857, Indian sepoys revolted against the British, freed their 85 colleagues and marched to New Delhi. They asked Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar to be their leader and thus began the First War of Independence.

Captain N S Negi, who served as one of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's bodyguards in the Indian National Army, felt, "very sad" after seeing that not many MPs attended the event. "It sends a wrong signal to the nation," he said, "It is sad to know that these MPs are more bothered about the UP election results than remembering the martyrs of 1857. Their act gives a wrong message to youngsters who want to do something for our country."