India

Delhi rally 'suicide' farmer, Gajendra Singh, cremated

Gajendra Singh at the rally minutes before his death Image copyright Press Trust of India
Image caption Farmer Gajendra Singh travelled to the rally in Delhi from the western state of Rajasthan

The funeral has been held in India of a farmer who hanged himself at a political rally in Delhi.

The body of Gajendra Singh was cremated at his village in Rajasthan state.

He hanged himself from a tree on Wednesday at a gathering addressed by the chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal. Politicians have been trading blame over his death.

More than 300,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves since 1995 because of mounting debts and poor harvests.

However, correspondents say this is the most high-profile incident of its kind, taking place before thousands of people at a rally in the capital.


At the scene: BBC Hindi's Abha Sharma in Dausa, Rajasthan

Gajendra Singh came from a well-to-do Rajput family that lives in a manner many here would envy. The family has built a home on its agricultural land, equipped with cowsheds, a vehicle, electricity and a satellite dish connection.

Mr Singh was quite a popular figure in the village. He had unique turban tying skills, which brought him into contact with celebrities. He was also known for arguing with the authorities to resolve village problems. Ravikant, a friend of Gajendra Singh's brother, described him as a helpful but moody person who aspired to be a social activist.


Mr Singh was attending a gathering convened by Mr Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's controversial land acquisition bill.

Opponents of the bill say it will hurt the interests of farmers but the government says it will boost the economy.

The bill was passed in the lower house of parliament last month but has not yet been approved by the upper house, where Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party is in the minority.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Kejriwal has been targeted by protesters in Delhi over the farmer's death

The farmer's body was cremated in his village of Dausa in western Rajasthan on Thursday.

Meanwhile in Delhi, activists from the opposition Congress party and from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party protested outside Mr Kejriwal's house.

They accused Mr Kejriwal of insensitivity in having continued his rally after the farmer hanged himself, as well as of responsibility for the death itself. Mr Kejriwal has in turn said government policies led to the farmer's death.

The police have also been accused of failing to prevent the death, while some have questioned whether the farmer had intended to kill himself.

'Driven from home'

Mr Singh was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital on Wednesday. Witnesses say the farmer only attracted the crowd's attention when he climbed to the top of the tree and tied a scarf around his neck.

AAP volunteers reportedly tried to stop Mr Singh from hanging himself but they could not reach him in time. Spectators at political rallies in India often climb trees and other tall structures to get a better view.

A note, written in Hindi, was recovered at the scene, in which Mr Singh said he had three children. "I was driven out of my home after my crops were destroyed [by bad weather]. Please tell me how I go home," he wrote.

Unseasonal rainfall and hailstorms in many parts of India in recent weeks have destroyed standing crops, putting further strain on impoverished farmers.

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