The recent death of Baba Ram Singh, who shot himself in protest against the repression of agitating farmers in India, has revealed the true colours of those in power.
Singh was associated with the Sikh sect of Nanaksar in Karnal, Haryana. On Wednesday, December 16, he shot himself dead, leaving behind a suicide note explaining the reason behind his action.
The note read that he was outraged by the mistreatment of farmers camping outside the national capital of New Delhi.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab and other states continue to sit on an indefinite demonstration to press the government to roll back controversial farming bills which are threatening their livelihood. The police had used excessive force on the farmers to disrupt their peaceful agitation and tried to prevent those coming from Punjab to march to New Delhi through the state of Haryana.
Singh had written that while many popular people have returned awards given by the government to register their protest against such barbarity, he was willing to give up his life for the cause. The note further said that it was a sin to tolerate repression.
Singh had earlier joined the protest, where he delivered a speech explaining how Sikh scriptures teach that it was wrong to take away anyone’s right. He had accused the ruling right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of attacking the rights of the farmers, who are the backbone of the Indian economy.
He had emphasised that it was not just a Sikh issue, as it involves all the religious communities, although the farmers from Punjab are predominantly followers of the Sikh faith. That explains why the famers from other states and communities have also jumped into the struggle.
Ironically, the BJP Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar made condolences over the death of Singh on Twitter. He not only expressed his sadness, but added that he was committed to walk on the path Singh had shown in service of humanity.
This is nothing but sheer hypocrisy by Khattar and his party. If they really care for what Singh stood for, the BJP government needs to revoke the anti-farmer bills. If Khattar really means what he says then his police shouldn’t have harassed Punjab farmers who were trying to go to New Delhi through Haryana to exercise their democratic right of protest in the first place. Since Singh’s suicide is a culmination of the atrocities committed by the BJP government, Khattar’s tweet makes little sense.
So much so, the right wing media owing allegiance to the BJP and the party leaders went to the extent of maligning the Sikh farmers as seditionists and separatists.
As if this was not enough, a section of the embedded media that was so obsessed with the suicide of Indian movie star Shushant Singh Rajput mostly remained indifferent towards the suicidal death of Singh.
Rajput had reportedly committed suicide in June because of mental health issues, something strongly disputed by film stars like Kangana Ranaut, who is known for her fondness of Modi. Notably, she had also tried to trash the farmers’ agitation. While she has been spearheading a campaign for investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Rajput, alleging conspiracy, she seems to remain unmoved by Singh’s death. The media that was too generous to give her airtime has chosen to underplay the story of Singh, who killed himself for political reasons.
Singh’s death must also be thoroughly investigated to settle some troubling questions, such as how he got access to the gun, and whether or not there is any conspiracy involved. But the selective approach of the political leadership, the media and celebrities, such as Ranaut, must not go unnoticed.
As per Indian laws, abetment of suicide is a punishable offence. If the suicide of Singh is proven, those in power should be held accountable for his death. If his suicide does not arouse any empathy or public outrage, than what would? There is a little hope though, considering that the countless suicides by Indian farmers before Singh in a free market environment have already failed to evoke such emotions from the upper middle class, which is constantly fed about the virtues of neoliberalism by the corporate media. Under Modi, such hopelessness has grown to alarming proportions.
Gurpreet Singh is a journalist