Farmer Suicide: Protests, Slogans, Political Finger Pointing Continue As Opposition Puts Govt On The Mat In Parliament

23/04/2015 12:53 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
CHANDAN KHANNA via Getty Images
Indian farmer Gajendra Singh stands on a tree before committing suicide during an Aam Aadmi Party rally in New Delhi on April 22, 2015. A farmer hanged himself in front of hundreds of protesters gathered in the centre of the Indian capital on April 22 to rally against the government's contentious reform of land purchasing laws. AFP PHOTO/Chandan KHANNA (Photo credit should read Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — The normally fractious Opposition united in Parliament to put the government on the mat over the death of a farmer at a rally organised by the Aam Aadmi Party while workers of both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Youth Congress braved jets from water cannons and police batons to protest in the heart of the capital against the tragic suicide in full view of hundreds of people.

BJP workers protested against the Aam Aadmi Party at the Shaheedi Park near the Delhi Police headquarters and raised slogans against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who they claimed acted irresponsibly by continuing with the rally even after Gajendra Singh Rajput hanged himself with a wash cloth from a tree not far from where the AAP chief was addressing hundreds of workers.

Making a statement in the Lok Sabha, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the crowd "clapped" and "raised slogans" as the farmer climbed up the tree and ended his life.

"Crowd was clapping. Police requested them to stop raising slogans. Generally, such people (who try to end lives) are engaged in talks to turn their mind but here the crowd kept clapping and raising slogans," he said, responding to an impromptu debate on the matter in Lok Sabha.

To questions over the role of police, the Home Minister said the police took prompt steps to tackle the situation by calling the police control room and ordering help from the fire brigade to bring him down from the tree.

The Prime Minister, during his brief intervention said the farmers cannot be left to fend for themselves and need to be given help. "There should be a collective resolve in this regard. We have an open mind to consider any suggestion that is made...

We cannot let the farmers die," he said.

He said governments, from time to time, have been doing their bit to address this problem. "Whatever governments could do, they have been doing," he added.

"Poiticizing the death is like rubbing salt on the wound of farmers," BJP leader Nitin Gadkari told television channels waiting outside Parliament.

Congress MP Renuka Chowdhary expressed dismay at why no one stopped a man who climbed the tree to commit suicide.

"He must have been so despondent that this seemed the only way out," she told reporters.

The Delhi Police is likely to be register a case against the organisers of the rally — the Aam Aadmi Party — and probe if someone instigated Rajput to commit suicide, according to the Times Now TV channel. Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi told reporters that the police has already submitted a report to the Home Ministry.

AAP leaders Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh, Gopal Rai, Pankaj Gupta and Kumar Vishwas met on Thursday at Kejriwal's residence over the issue.

According to a suicide note flung into the crowd, Rajput was thrown out of his house by his father after suffering crop damage. He has three children and no means to support his family.

Youth Congress workers raised slogans and burnt Kejriwal’s effigies outside his residence in the national capital even as a Delhi Police Crime Branch team left for Dausa district of Rajasthan this morning.

Home Ministry Directs Police Probe

Home Minister Rajnath Singh has directed the Delhi Police to complete the probe into Rajput’s death soon. Singh, who is likely to give a statement in Parliament on the issue, held a meeting with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Bassi.

Singh said that the probe should be completed as soon as possible as it was a "sensitive" matter, officials said. He also directed that necessary steps be taken to ensure that such an incident does not recur.

Uproar In Parliament

The suicide, which has triggered a blame game between political parties, has also stalled Parliament. Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were adjourned during the day following Opposition protests over Rajput’s death.

Congress members K C Venugopal, Rajeev Satav, Deepender Singh Hooda and Ravneet Singh Bittu gave notices to adjourn the Question Hour in the House.

Leaders demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak about the issue in Parliament.

Meanwhile, Dausa district Tehsildar Satish Kumar Jain stated that the Rajput was 'financially sound', ANI reported. "Don't think financial crisis was the reason. We did not receive any application on his behalf for compensation," Jain had said.

In shock over his son’s sudden demise, Rajput’s father fainted this morning while waiting for the mortal remains of his son to be brought to the Nangal village in Dausa district.

Rajput’s Body Taken To His Village

Rajput’s body was taken to Rajgarh in Alwar district, which is 30 km away from his village, last night. Due to his niece's wedding, his body was brought to the village only this morning after the 'baraat' (wedding party) left the village. The body was taken for cremation in a large procession.

Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and PCC President Sachin Pilot were among those present.

"It is a very tragic incident and we are here to offer whatever support we can to the family. Farmers are distraught and feeling helpless.... There has been a system failure," Pilot said.

Rajput Met Sisodia Before Rally

Interestingly, in a separate development, relatives of Rajput alleged that he had met Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia before the public gathering.

"I was shocked when I got to know about the incident. I have a close friend in the AAP; I gave him a call and was told that Gajendra has expired," said Rajendra Singh, a cousin told ANI.

"I later got to know that Gajendra had visited Manish Sisodia before the rally begun. He did participate in rallies occasionally, but I don't know what provoked him to hang himself," he added.

"I got a call from the SHO of the Tughlaq Road Police Station to inform me of the incident, who somehow got my number and called me. Gajendra was upset because of the crop damage due to the recent rains. He was given a call by Manish Sisodia, inviting him to the rally and to help him out," he said.

"He had a lot of hopes when he went for the AAP rally. It is shameful that when a person is dying, people are trying to politicise the situation," he added.

Meanwhile, senior Cabinet Ministers, including Singh, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari met Modi to brief him over the suicide.

Kejriwal stated that his government was committed to the well-being of farmers and will continue to strive for their betterment.

"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. The Delhi government is committed to the well-being of farmers and will continue to strive for their betterment and will do everything to find out how such an incident took place in full public view," according to a statement by Kejriwal.

"The Delhi government does not wish to engage in any blame game at this terrible tragedy. The District Magistrate of the area has already begun his probe into the entire incident and the government will await the inquiry report before any further reaction," he said.

(With agency inputs)

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