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Welcome To The Suicide Show

29/04/2015 8:16 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Indian farmers shout slogans against the government as they gather near the parliament for a protest against the land acquisition bill, in New Delhi, India, Monday, March 16, 2015. The bill currently in parliament proposes to ease rules for acquiring land to facilitate infrastructure projects. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)

We are witnessing a tragedy transformed into spectacle. A political and media spectacle where every image, every word and every stance put forth is a readymade package for mass consumption - mud-slinging, smear campaign, accusations of politicking - nation's PM promising solution to farmers suicide and Delhi CM offering apology. And as if something was short there is a political leader shedding tear 'live'!

A farmer killed himself in full public view - a very unlikely suicide. And now everybody is shocked. Shocked not by the death but by the spectacle of the death. Apparently, death as a tragedy has no value unless it becomes a spectacle. The question of death of a particular farmer is now effectively sidelined by the ensuing show of blame-game and sympathy - most notably among BJP that is in power at the centre and in Rajasthan (home state of the deceased farmer), Congress that was in power a few months back at the centre as well as in Rajasthan and AAP, the self-proclaimed messiah of 'aam aadmi'.

It would be dishonest to say that what is happening is 'unfortunate'. This is too mild a term that obfuscates the cruelty which is so structural that it remains largely invisible. An invisibility that is more ideological than real.

It is not the death that has created this frenzied commotion at the very geographic centre of country's polity. Not at all. Had that been the case Lutyen's Delhi would have been swept away by now with farmers committing suicide every hour for past two decades. But as we can all see Delhi remains intact - a solid monolith it is. So what has caused this commotion now? Only because this time the act of suicide was not committed in some remote corner, miles away from the VIP corridors, but at the very centre of Delhi. A suicide not committed but enacted amidst a rally purportedly in support of farmers. At Jantar Mantar - the state sanctioned enclosure for performance of democracy within limits defined by the state. This is the only reason why this particular suicide - one among lakhs - has got all the headlines, prime times and parliamentary time as well.

This actually highlights the fact of cruelty inbuilt in the system. It is not anybody's plight, least of all farmer's plight, which this system empathises with. In fact, those in charge of running the system keep us all reminding now and then that 'people should be ready for tough measures'! 'Tough measures' for development, for the nation, for the utopia of 'trickle down' to materialize. Plight is an inbuilt feature of capitalism.

Should we not remind the political class bemoaning this spectacle that the phenomena of farmer's suicide is very much an outcome of the economic reforms that is an essential part of the 'Structural Adjustment Programme' package thrust upon the people in 1990's and to which they remain fervently committed. Systematic contraction of public investment in agriculture, subsidy cuts and decline in extension services etc form the core of agricultural policy after economic reforms. This is not to say that everything was alright before the reforms. Decline in agricultural productivity and near 'jobless' growth in other sectors of economy coupled with failed land reforms - agrarian crisis is an outcome of this long drawn economic game.

Farmer's suicide is, thus, not an obscure phenomenon. It is merely a tragic symptom of a larger crisis within the economy. Both, the BJP and Congress are party to this situation. And AAP too shares the same neoliberal baggage as others. Clearly, all this show of sympathy for the dead farmer is nothing but a huge farce. What we are witnessing is nothing but a grand spectacle of farce enacted for mass consumption like cola advertisements or Sunny Leone song number.

The death of Gajendra Singh has been effectively wiped out like the death of million other farmers. And what else is wiped out is the cruelty of this system. A grand spectacle as it is.

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