22/04/2015 3:35 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Crop Damage Drives Desperate Rajasthan Farmer To Commit Suicide At AAP Rally

Thousands of Indian farmers listen to a speaker as they gather near the parliament for a protest against the land acquisition bill, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. The bill currently in parliament proposes to ease rules for acquiring land to facilitate infrastructure projects. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

NEW DELHI -- As hundreds of people watched, horrified, a debt-ridden farmer from Rajasthan — a father of three — wrapped a wash cloth around his neck and hanged himself from a tree not very far from the stage from which Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was addressing a rally against a controversial bill to ease land acquisition laws.

In his purported suicide note, Gajender Singh Rajput from Dausa district of Rajasthan said he was driven out of his home by his father and his crop was damaged. He hanged himself in front of hundreds of Aam Aadmi Party volunteers, most of whom saw him climb the tree. TV channels showed disturbing footage of his limp body being brought down by some of the men present at the venue. Rajput was brought dead at the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in New Delhi.

Despite a tragedy of this magnitude and ironically at a rally called to address the concerns of hundreds of farmers driven to desperation after massive crop damage by unseasonal rains and hailstorms, the political blame game has begun.

Kejriwal blamed the Delhi police for not attempting to save Rajput even as he climbed the tree before thousands of protestors. "Before our eyes he climbed tree. I kept telling the police to save him. But the police are not in our control, but at least he is under god's control. I am sad that he climbed the tree in front of us but nobody tried to stop him," NDTV quoted the Chief Minister as saying.

The AAP rally was held three days after the Congress Party organised a massive rally at the Ramlila Maidan on Sunday to protest against the Land Bill. Both these demonstrations were attended by distressed farmers who have lost their crops to unseasonal rains and hailstorms.

"I want to ask AAP, which is more important. Life or politics," said BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, ANI reported. "Very painful to know that politics has become more important than human life."

BJP's Satish Upadhyay said men who were wearing AAP caps helped the farmer climb the tree.

"Party workers and people here tried best to help man. Delhi Police should have been more proactive," said Naveen Jaihind from the AAP.

Congress Party-Vice President Rahul Gandhi also visited Lady Hardinge hospital, where the farmer's body was sent for postmortem. "We are not going to let the BJP take land away from poor farmers," he said.

Journalist Rahul Kanwal, Managing Editor, TV Today Network, tweeted quoting eyewitnesses as saying that Rajput was attempting suicide since 10 AM and no one stopped him at the venue.

Humanitarian Crisis

A huge humanitarian is unfolding in agricultural districts of India with farmers driven to taking their own lives due to crop damage. In Maharashtra alone as many as 601 farmers have killed themselves in the last three months.

In Vidarbha region of the state, known as 'the suicide belt', the highest number of cases — more than half the suicides between January and March — were registered.

The government passed an executive order in December to make land acquisition easier and now needs lawmakers in both houses of parliament to pass the bill before the end of this parliamentary session in May.

Read: As Many As 601 Farmers Have Killed Themselves In Maharashtra In Last 3 Months: Report

The opponents of the Land Bill are protesting the dropped clause that would force developmental projects to seek the consent of 80 percent of the affected landowners. They will also be exempt from holding a social impact study involving public hearings - procedures that industry executives say can drag out the acquisition process for years, according to Reuters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered condolences to Gajendra Singh's family on Twitter, adding that his party is working to create a better tomorrow for the farmers of the country.

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