Gajendra Singh's suicide: Why you can't blame AAP
The storm will pass and the party will regroup but the underlying issue of rural distress remains.
In my last novel I wrote a scene where Tibetan monks immolate themselves at Jantar Mantar in full view of the media. I did not describe it as a suicide but the ultimate act of political protest taken as a last resort by fearless individuals who feel they have no other choice because they have been rendered voiceless and abandoned by circumstance and history. Never did I imagine that similar ghastly events would play out in real life as they did at the AAP rally in Jantar Mantar.
I cannot say with certainty if Gajendra Singh attended to take his life this past Wednesday, or perhaps lost his footing as some suggest, either way his death is a tragedy and it is reasonable to surmise that he climbed that tree with the intention of being heard by the AAP leadership on the dais and equally gaining the attention of the media assembled there to give voice to the feelings of crores of India’s farmers who have come to believe they too have been rendered voiceless and abandoned in the India of today.
Although I am a member of the AAP, I must confess, I was not present at the rally. But from a close viewing of the unedited video of the rally shown by NDTV, it seems amply clear that Kumar Vishwas repeatedly and loudly beseeched the police to take charge of the situation and bring Gajendra Singh down from the tree. Vishwas even invited Gajendra to the dais to speak with Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia if he came down.
I understand there was a boisterous group of guest teachers who had positioned themselves in front of the tree in question only adding to the confusion, with many of those present believing at first that Gajendra was part of their protest and valuable time was lost. The educators refused to sit down and stop causing a commotion even when Gajendra was clearly in distress. One worries for their students. Then we come to the Delhi Police who claim in their FIR, registered by an inspector who was on duty at Jantar Mantar, and taken as gospel truth by Rajnath Singh in the Lok Sabha, that police did everything under the sun to help save Gajendra’s life and were repeatedly thwarted by those villains, the AAP leaders and volunteers, who also apparently were coaxing Gajendra to end his life. It’s another matter that out of the dozens of television cameras and media professional present at the rally not one video recording or first-person account bears out the facts laid out in the FIR. In fact, there is no proof any member of the police moved a muscle to help the AAP volunteers who in fact climbed the tree and cut Gajendra free. A Reuters photographer happened to be near the tree and had a good vantage point from which to document the heroics of the AAP volunteers. You can find the photographs on my Twitter page. In these photographs I could not spot a single policeman anywhere near the tree while the rescue attempt was underway. Naturally, Delhi Police is not known to admit its mistake freely and especially not in an incident involving the AAP. The Delhi Police has nothing but contempt for Delhi’s duly-elected ruling party and that attitude was on full view at Jantar Mantar to everyone’s detriment.
Unquestionably, the AAP leaders on the dais were slow to comprehend the gravity of events that were taking place before them and resultant shock in the aftermath of Gajendra’s death caused some spokespersons to make a few unfortunate statements. Understandably, Gajendra’s family is upset and blames the AAP for Gajendra’s untimely passing, they are fully entitled to their grief, and rival political parties are having a field day bashing the AAP as well. Such is politics in the big leagues. This storm will pass and the AAP will regroup but the underlying issue of rural distress remains. The BJP and the Congress can giddily blame the AAP for Gajendra’s death all they want but who do we blame for the two suicides of farmers in Gajendra’s home state of Rajasthan in the 24 hours after the tragedy in Jantar Mantar. For the record, those two farmers had names too and they were Titu Jat of Bharatpur and Harsu Jatav of Alwar.
If Gajendra’s death awakens us to the realisation that farmers are not mere statistics in the news or inconvenient obstacles in India’s race to superpower status, but the heart and soul of our nation in need of our compassion and support, then his death would not have been in vain.