New Delhi: A distressed farmer from Rajasthan on Wednesday committed suicide in full public view in the presence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who came under attack for "utter insensitivity" in going ahead with his rally. The incident triggered a blame game among political rivals with demands being made that a case of murder be filed against AAP which had organised a rally against the Centre's land acquisition ordinance.
Unmindful of the appeals from AAP leaders and workers to climb down from a tree at Jantar Mantar, 41-year-old Gajendra Singh, a father of three, had put his towel around his neck and tied it to a branch. As police watched the whole drama, a couple of AAP workers climbed the tree and tried to rescue him, but by then the noose had stifled Singh, whose body hanged for a few moments before falling.
A combo picture shows farmer Gajendra Singh's suicide attempt during Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)'s rally against the Union government's Land Acquisition Bill at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Wednesday. He died later. Pic/ PTI
He was rushed to the nearby RML hospital where he was declared brought dead. The farmer, who was heard shouting slogans against the land bill, had left a suicide note in which he had claimed he was disowned by his father after the family suffered huge crop loss due to unseasonal rains.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister went ahead with the rally where he spoke for almost 20 minutes, launching a strident attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of working for the "super rich" and questioning the hurry with which his government brought the land acquisition ordinance. Senior leader Kumar Vishwas earlier alleged a conspiracy by the police not to rescue the farmer so that AAP's image can be damaged.
Combo- Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia looking at a farmer who attempted suicide during Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)'s rally against the Union government's Land Acquisition Bill at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Wednesday. Pic/ PTI
Winding up his speech, Kejriwal said "We kept asking the police to bring him down. Police may not be in our control but at least there should be a semblance of humanity among them. I am rushing to the hospital with Manish Sisodia." He was apparently referring to the Delhi police functioning under the Centre.
As the news of Singh's death spread, Kejriwal and his party came under attack from rivals who accused the Chief Minister of insensitivity in going ahead with his rally and not making efforts to rescue him. They demanded a probe into the death and registration of a case against the organisers of the rally.
"It is a case of murder. The entire matter should be investigated and a case filed," Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay said. While the suicide drew attention to the agrarian crisis in the country, Prime Minister Modi tweeted his "sadness" over the incident and asked the farming community not to consider themselves alone.
"Gajendra's death has saddened the nation. We are deeply shattered and disappointed. Condolences to his family," he said. BJP spokesman Sambit Patra attacked AAP, asking its leaders what was more important--politics or a life. "I want to ask all those leaders of AAP, what is more important?
A life is important or politics is more important? A life is more important or your career is more important? Your wish to become something is more important or your wish to save the man who is dying is more important? "This is a conspiracy, Sir. You knew what was happening but still decided to do your politics. You knew very well that when poor Gajendra Singh jumped from the tree he had committed suicide.
Mr Arvind Kejriwal, sir, you knew very well that he had died. Still you did not decide to keep quiet. You still tried to score those political brownie points," BJP spokesman Sambit Patra said. The Congress targeted both AAP and BJP for the incident demanding registration of a case of abetment to suicide against the Centre and Delhi governments.
"A case of abetment of suicide should be lodged against the central government and the state government....the two persons who can be held most responsible for the suicide are Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and Chief Minister (Arvind) Kejriwal," said Congress spokesman Satyavrat Chaturvedi.
Senior AAP leaders Kumar Vishwas, Sanjay Singh and Ashutosh later held a press conference where they blamed the Delhi police for doing nothing to save the farmer's life even after being told to do so. Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Delhi Police Commissioner D S Bassi and ordered an inquiry.
Bassi later said inquest proceedings have been initiated. Kejriwal, who also visited the RML hospital, condoled the death of Singh and ordered probe by the District Magistrate. "The loss of life of this farmer in distress is an extremely sad incident and no words can fulfil the irreparable loss caused to Gajendra's family.
"Delhi government does not wish to engage in any blame game at this terrible tragedy and will do everything to find out how such an incident took place in full public view," he said. A bevy of leaders including Rahul Gandhi and Sitaram Yechury visited the hospital.
Rahul Gandhi said he did not wish to make any statements in "this hour of grief" but assured the farmers that his party would stand strongly behind them and will not allow anyone to take away their land. He also asked Youth Congress workers to help transport the farmer's body to his hometown.