Stunned, Speechless or disoriented? I have no clue what to feel about a suicide I saw unfolding on the computer screen in front of me 3 oceans away from where it happened. Gajendra Singh, a farmer from Rajasthan, hanged himself from a tree during an Aam Aadmi Party rally at Jantar Mantar in the heart of New Delhi.
No, I was not in denial like the authorities, I knew that more than 600 farmers have killed themselves in Vidarbha, a part of BJP ruled Maharashtra alone. Being in denial was a prerogative of top bureaucrats and their political masters after all. It was a prerogative of, for instance, Alok Ranjan, Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, a state ruled by opposition Samajwadi Party. While admitting that farmers were in fact committing suicide in Uttar Pradesh Mr. Ranjan had the cheeks to claim that there was no conclusive proof “yet, that any of the suicides that have been reported have anything to do with unseasonal, heavy rains.” That was despite at least 73 recorded suicides from Bundelkhand region alone after the rains and hailstorms.
Farmers are committing suicide all around the country. India where 70 % of its population are small time farmers who are desperately trying to keep their to heads up the flooding waters of debt and crop loss are dying like flies around a lighted lamp. Now, India's farmer's suicide epidemic has come to the nation's capital. Now nobody can deny it. Now nobody can ignore it. This is a nation's death.
That is a prerogative of Union Agricultural Minister Radha Mohan Singh too, who even while admitting in Rajya Sabha on March 20, 2015 that the government's own statistics pegged the numbers of suicides committed by people 'self employed in farming/agriculture' was 14027, 13754 and 11772 respectively for 2011, 2012 and 2013. Specifically attributing less than 10 percent of these suicides to agrarian crisis was his prerogative too. The numbers, as per the National Crime Records Bureau, if you must know, were pegged at 1066, 890 and 1357 for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively. Hiding why did the rest kill themselves and why these numbers are significantly higher than the corresponding figures of ‘general' population is a prerogative of his and his government, too.
And yes, the Minister also has the prerogative of hiding the fact that these numbers are achieved by the small maneuvering by states like like Chhattisgarh which simply took out some of the farmer suicides out of the "Self-Employed (farming/agriculture)" category and put them into the category of "Self-Employed (Others)'.
In short, farmers' suicides is something where political stands don't emanate not from ideology but the status of being in power or in opposition. Farmers' suicides are anything from conspiracy to personal distress if you are the regime and failure of the state if in opposition.
I, as thousands of other activists like me, had neither any such prerogative nor any reasons to stay in denial so I was writing, to the best of my capacity to expose the crisis engulfing the peasantry. I was trying, to the best of my capacity again, to bring this to the notice of powers that may. I don't want to repeat how governments from those of UPA to NDA have devised Kill and Compensate Humiliating Policy, I am not up for that. You can read it here, if you must. All I want to talk about here is Gajendra Singh's suicide and how it exposes us all.
First, about the suicide that busted the denial from all those in power from the centre to state. It was almost like a competition to defeat others in shamelessness. The account was opened by Somnath Bharti, the Law Minister of AAP's Delhi government who saw a conspiracy in the suicide and tweeted about the same. He, of course, reneged on that tweet in no time, deleted the same and claimed that the tweet's second part was targeted at contractual teachers opposing his party's, and government's Kisan Rally. It is just that he had to be reminded of his grief, and breaking down, by a fellow activist of his party.
He was matched in shamelessness by Ms. Vasundhara Raje in no time who blamed delayed action by AAP for the death of Gajendra Singh happily forgetting that it was apathetic inaction of her government that had pushed Gajendra Singh against the wall and forced him to take his life. She, in turn, was matched by several Congress leaders who had started blaming Modi regime by then, happily forgetting the fact that the blood of more than a 100,000 farmers are on the hands of UPA as well as Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA regimes.
Let us get back to the suicide of Gajendra Singh and ask ourselves why did he had to die? Let us also ask why AAP's rally continued well after the attempted suicide and why AAP ‘leaders' like Asutosh (Gupta) and Kumar Vishwas made insensitive statements about the same? Ashutosh had the guts to question media if Arvind Kejriwal should have climbed up the tree to save Gajendra happily forgetting that the same Kejriwal had actually climbed up an electrical pole before elections.
The answers might seem illusive but they are not, in fact. The answer lies in a simple statement- both the political leadership and the civil society has lost the connect with the people, citizens of the country. It is simple, the self designated ‘largest democracy of the world' has stopped listening to the democratic and peaceful voices of dissent, and of distress on the ground. It would not have been much of an issue had this oblivion limited itself to the regime. But then, it has expanded to us, the people who have organized themselves into a Republic. Are not we the same people who keep complaining about the filth, the traffic jams and what not that protests of the downtrodden and the dispossessed bring to Delhi? We read about all these suicides but from a distance, didn't we? Are not we the same who want to throw the slums out of city boundaries while clinging to the labour we get from them?
We have all read about the farm crisis killing farmers en masse, haven't we? but then, that was happening far away from us, we were safe from that. Gajendra's suicide brought that crisis right in front of us- in fact right inside our living rooms. Neither do we watch a suicide on camera everyday nor have we gone inhuman in quest for TRP like the media-persons who kept filming the act instead of helping him, after all.
I am ashamed of my republic. I am more so because AAP leadership, that offered a different politics, ended up proving to be worse than the ‘mainstream' political parties. I am ashamed, more so, of claiming to be a Republic.
Let us accept the fact, that we are a heartless people, a people where a shameless Ashutosh of AAP can try to defend his party's criminal negligence against an even more shameless BJP (or Congress) for letting a man kill himself in front of thousands, that too on camera.
Having said that, the rally of AAP continued for more than an hour after the suicide. AAP leader, and now Chief Minister, Kejriwal did not bother to stop it then and there. Was not he the same Kejriwal who had, admiringly, stopped his speech to respect a call for Azaan during election campaign? Stopping the speech for respecting Azaan call was ridiculed by the Hindu fanatics but then that was a great gesture for asserting republic's composite culture and need for coexistence. What, then, is message of not stopping his speech despite a man's suicide in front of him? It is not merely a criminal negligence but utter disrespect for the constitution that guarantees the right to life with dignity to all Indians, a right that Mr. CM is oath-bound to protect.
How guilty, though, Kejriwal and other AAP leaders are? Despite their sickening defense of their criminal disdain for life, they are far less guilty than the Congress and BJP who have always practiced a Kill But Never Compensate policy for the farmers.
Need I say more other than thanking Gajendra Singh, posthumously, for exposing all of them by a single act?