India

Arvind Kejriwal apologises for Delhi rally after farmer's 'suicide'

Gajendra Singh at the rally minutes before his death Image copyright Press Trust of India
Image caption Farmer Gajendra Singh, photographed here moments before his death, travelled to the rally from the western state of Rajasthan

The chief minister of Indian capital, Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, has apologised for continuing his speech after a farmer hanged himself at his rally.

"I think I was wrong, I should not have gone ahead with my speech and called off the rally. I apologise if I hurt anyone," he told news agency ANI.

Gajendra Singh hanged himself from a tree on Wednesday at the gathering attended by a few thousand people.

Politicians have been trading blame over his death.

On Thursday, activists from the opposition Congress party and the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 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 responsibility for the death itself. Mr Kejriwal has blamed government policies which he says 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.

In the interview on Friday morning, the chief minister for the first time admitted that it was a bad idea to go ahead with the rally, but said he could not see the tree from which the farmer hanged himself because it was at a distance from the stage.

"If we had any inkling that he would do something like that, someone would have acted," he said, adding that "the incident took place in front of me. I am not able to digest it, I could not sleep that night".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's party staged the rally to protest against PM Narendra Modi's controversial land acquisition bill

Mr Singh had come from Rajasthan to attend the farmers' rally 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 BJP is in the minority.

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

But correspondents say Gajendra Singh's death is the most high-profile incident of its kind, taking place as it did before thousands of people at a rally in the capital.

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