Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia looking at a farmer who attempted suicide during Aam Aadmi Party’s rally against the Union government’s Land Acquisition Bill at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Apr. 22. (Kamal Kishore | PTI)


The blame game over a farmer’s suicide in New Delhi escalated Apr. 23, with government and police accusing the Aam Aadmi Party of having instigated it as Parliament was rocked and Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for a collective solution to the “deep-rooted” agrarian crisis. Two days after a farmer from Rajasthan hanged himself from a tree in full public gaze at an AAP rally in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal apologized for not calling off the event and admitted that his making a speech was a “mistake.” A Press Trust of India report.


 

“I am guilty. Blame me. I feel the rally should have been called off. But please focus on the real issue of the farmers and desist from politicking. Whoever is guilty hang him but the focus of the debate should be on why the farmers are committing suicide,” Kejriwal told a news channel.


As the suicide in full public view put focus on the crisis, the Prime Minister expressed “pain” over the suicide by Gajender Singh, a farmer from Dausa in Rajasthan who took his life during an AAP rally addressed by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and others.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh laid the blame at the doors of AAP saying its supporters “clapped and raised slogans” preventing police from engaging the farmer to prevent him from taking the extreme step.

The Delhi Police in its FIR accused unnamed AAP leaders and workers of having instigated Singh into committing suicide and putting all sorts of obstacles in their efforts to rescue him.

People sit on a “dharna” at Jantar Mantar over farmer Gajender Singh's suicide, in New Delhi, Apr. 23. (Kamal Singh | PTI)

People sit on a “dharna” at Jantar Mantar over farmer Gajender Singh’s suicide, in New Delhi, Apr. 23. (Kamal Singh | PTI)

“This is totally an incident where AAP workers and leaders instigated the man to commit suicide and they also did not pay heed to requests made by police,” says the FIR.

The FIR was registered under Section 306 (Abetement of suicide), 186 (Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) and 34 (common intention) of IPC in Parliament Street Police Station.

Under attack for showing “insensitivity” in going ahead with the rally, AAP leaders held two press conferences to refute the charges against them. They hit back at Rajnath Singh saying he was “lying.”

“Home Minister is lying and giving misleading statements.

Farmer Gajendra Singh during Aam Aadmi Party’s rally against the Union government's Land Acquisition Bill at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Apr. 22. He committed suicide later that day. (Press Trust of India)

BJP Delhi chief Satish Upadhyay braves water cannons during a protest against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over farmer Gajender Singh’s suicide at an AAP rally, in New Delhi, Apr. 23. (Kamal Singh | PTI)

It is the Union government’s ploy to target AAP using the Delhi Police. Media recorded the incident as it happened and should put out the tapes in public to establish the truth,” party spokesperson Sanjay Singh said.

“You must have seen that we were requesting the police to rescue him. Please show the truth as to whether we have incited anyone. At least tell the truth on the floor of the house,” said senior AAP leader Kumar Vishwas, who was flanked by Sanjay Singh and Ashutosh.

The Congress, which has mounted a major offensive on the BJP-led NDA government over the land acquisition ordinance, demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident.

Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken took out a candlelight procession of party to condole the farmer’s death.

In Parliament, the Opposition in both the houses raised the suicide issue and attacked the government over the current agrarian crisis.

People sit on a “dharna” at Jantar Mantar over farmer Gajender Singh's suicide, in New Delhi, Apr. 23. (Kamal Singh | PTI)

People sit on a “dharna” at Jantar Mantar over farmer Gajender Singh’s suicide, in New Delhi, Apr. 23. (Kamal Singh | PTI)

They demanded that the prime minister come to the house and make a statement. After adjournments, both the houses held impromptu debates on the problems faced by farmers across the country.

In a brief speech in the Lok Sabha, he observed that nothing is more important than a farmer’s life or for that matter a human life. “The problem (afflicting the farmers) is old, deep-rooted and widespread and we have to seek solutions in that context.”

Modi said assessment would have to be made about “shortcomings” that occurred before his government came as well as during his 10-month tenure.

He said there should be a “collective resolve to ensure that farmers do not die.” It needs to be ascertained as to what “mistakes” have been made and “what shortcomings” have been there before his government came as well as during his tenure, he added.

“The issue of farmers suicide has been a matter of concern for the whole country for many years… We will all have to ponder over where we went wrong and what were the shortcomings.

“What were the shortcomings in the last 10 months. I am open to any suggestion so that a way could be found. Let a collective resolve come out of this debate to deal with the crisis,” he said.

The two-hour debate saw members cutting across party lines to express pain and anguish over the matter. Members demanded a judicial probe to fix responsibility.

Rajya Sabha also witnessed anguish being expressed by members, with those from Opposition seeking a CBI and demanding a reply from none other than Modi.

Opposition accused the government of merely focusing on the land bill instead of addressing farmers’ distress and growing number of suicide, saying that the bill was being pushed for passage in Parliament with a “vengeance.”

The opposition members also asked the government not to insist on convening a joint session of Parliament if the bill fell through in the Upper House where the ruling coalition does not enjoy a majority.

They demanded waiver of crop loans and a substantial hike in the minimum support price (MSP) of farm crops, saying the prime reason of distress and suicides was the recent unseasonal rains and hailstorm which had damaged crops.

Initiating a discussion on farmers’ distress and crisis, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the land bill of the UPA should be restored and the NDA government should not insist on calling for a joint Parliamentary session in case the bill does not get cleared in the Upper House.

The House saw pandemonium created by opposition members when government explained reasons for re-promulgating ordinance on land acquisition, with a Trinamool Congress member tearing a copy of agenda paper and throwing it into the Well. Trinamool members also staged a walkout over the issue.

Making speech and not calling off rally a ‘mistake’: Kejriwal

Under fire over his handling of the issue that has snowballed into a major controversy, the AAP supremo also slammed the media and the opposition parties, saying that the debate had veered away from the “real issue” of the farmers’ plight.

“I was to deliver an hour long speech but I wrapped it up in 10-15 minutes. I think that was my mistake. Probably I should not have spoken. If that has hurt anynone’s sentiments I would like to apologize.

“I am guilty. Blame me. I feel the rally should have been called off. But please focus on the real issue of the farmers and desist from politicking. Whoever is guilty hang him but the focus of the debate should be on why the farmers are committing suicide,” Kejriwal told a news channel.

Seeking to play down his government’s face-off with the Delhi Police over the probe of the incident, Kejriwal said he was even ready to file his statement to the police if needed.

“District Magistrate has the jurisdiction to investigate under the CrPC and the police does criminal investigation based on FIR … if police calls me I will go to file my statement,” he said.

Opposition members created ruckus in the Lok Sabha over the incident, leading to adjournment of proceedings even as the Center said it was ready to discuss the matter.

Making his point against AAP, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said the crowd gathered for the rally “clapped” and “raised slogans” as the farmer Gajendra Singh climbed up the tree and ended his life, prompting the party to accuse Singh of “lying.”

Many, including Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, sought a judicial probe to fix accountability, saying police are in a dock over the matter and they cannot probe themselves.

A judicial probe, Kharge said, was necessary as Kejriwal and the Delhi police, which reports to the MHA, had offered conflicting versions of the event.

Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit sought to remind Kejriwal that he was no longer in the opposition where he could indulge in “politics of dharna.”

“As a chief minister his statements should be much more responsible rather indulging in (a) blame game. Politicizing someone’s suicide or death is not right,” she said.

Kejriwal also toned down the party’s shrill attack on Delhi Police a day after AAP leaders sensed a “ploy” by the Center to target the party using the forces, which they said did not act in spite of repeated requests from the stage at the rally.

“We should not say that all policemen are bad. Should not indulge in blame game. I believe if police had the slightest inkling they would have tried to save him. They must have genuinely thought nothing of that sort was taking place,” he said.

AAP leader Sanjay Singh had said, “It is the Union government’s ploy to target AAP using the Delhi Police … Media recorded the incident as it happened and should put out the tapes in public to establish the truth.”

The Chief Minister, who has earlier publicly denounced the land bill, underlined that the focus ought to be on preventing “forcible land acquisition,” appropriate compensation for damaged crops as a “right” and implementation of Swaminathan committee recommendations.

“Whatever is happening for the last two days is not right. Don’t tear the issue into pieces. It will get you TRPs but farmers won’t get anything out of it.

“Delhi’s farmers are happy with the compensation amount that I have declared,” Kejriwal said.

Referring to the aftermath of the incident, that marred the AAP’s rally against the contentious Bill, Kejriwal added, “I am saying this happened in front of the Delhi CM. I couldn’t sleep the whole night.”