The suicide of an Indian farmer during a political rally in New Delhi on Wednesday has sparked protests demanding actions against the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), currently the ruling party of the city-state. Gajendra Singh, from the western state of Rajasthan, hanged himself publicly during the AAP rally organized to protest Prime Minister Narendra Modi's controversial land acquisition bill.
A First Information Report (FIR) filed by the Delhi state police said that leaders and supporters of AAP encouraged the farmer to take his own life, adding that police were stopped from sending him to the hospital, a delay that may have led to his death, local media reports said. However, AAP has argued that the "carelessness and intolerance" of the Delhi police, who are controlled by the federal government -- led by Modi's party -- caused the farmer's death. A detailed report of the incident has been sent to Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
"Nothing is more precious than human life," Modi said, according to reports. “The problem (afflicting the farmers) is old, deep-rooted and widespread and we have to seek solutions in that context.”
Supporters of the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demonstrated outside Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence on Thursday, demanding his resignation over the incident.
"They (AAP) should have stopped the rally and must have tried to save the farmer. The Chief Minister should resign from his post,” one of the protesters said, according to the Hindu, a local newspaper.
Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay alleged that there was a conspiracy behind the farmer's death.
“It is not a suicide but a conspiracy. People there instigated him to commit suicide," Upadhyay said, and claimed that the farmer had joined AAP six months ago and that he had been invited to the political rally on Wednesday by a senior party leader. Upadhyay also reportedly alleged that an AAP leader "tweeted a condolence message 20 minutes before his death.”
“This is a motivated murder and everybody responsible in this case should be booked under charges of murder,” he reportedly said.
Meanwhile, the farmer's family alleged that a suicide note found in his pocket was not in his handwriting, the Hindustan Times, another local newspaper reported.
“He (Singh) came here from Rajasthan, tried to end his life hanging from a tree to bring attention to himself and his condition, to bring it to the attention of the whole country,” Kejriwal reportedly said, adding: “We kept urging the police from the stage repeatedly, ‘Please save him, please save him!’”
Since 1995, over 300,000 Indian farmers -- burdened by debt and poor harvests -- have reportedly killed themselves.
The federal government’s proposed land reforms are aimed at simplifying the process of acquiring land for certain industrial projects for the government and private companies. People opposing the bill, which was passed in the lower house of the parliament last month, argue that the bill would hurt the interests of farmers, but the government -- which swept into power in May 2014 on a pro-business platform -- has stated that it will boost the country's economy. The bill has not been approved by the upper house, where BJP is in the minority.
Rahul Gandhi, vice president of the Indian National Congress party, reportedly told journalists, while visiting the hospital where the farmer was admitted, that "the Modi government is a government that helps corporates,” while “the farmers and laborers of this country have built this country.”
“We’re not just going to let the BJP government take the land of our poor farmers,” he reportedly added.