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Politics and prejudice: BJP, Congress converged with hysterical attacks on AAP

By Kamal Mitra Chenoy*The suicide (I won't call it a stunt gone wrong), of Gajendra has been a matter of wild speculation. Apoorvanand's article in The Indian Express, 25 April, has made some valid points about this tragedy. But his assertion "that all that he wanted to do was to create a spectacle which would force the crowd or leaders or police to converge under the tree...and pleaded with him to climb down."
This the author surmised was so because, "He wanted...to be helped to be able to return home, from where he was forced out." Yet his family owns some 90 bighas of land, so he was a rich peasant with his crop not badly damaged, and his family was convinced that he couldn't have committed suicide.
But the other assertions are equally speculative. For example, the description of the AAP leaders on the stage. The claim that AAP leaders virtually ignored Gajendra because "The AAP leaders were upset with this protest...They suffer from a strange sense of entitlement...for they are the 'party of protest.' "
The NDTV footage of what happened showed the AAP leaders concern over the incident, with one of the leaders appealing to Gajendra to climb down and come to the stage and speak from there.
It would have been much better, if AAP stopped the rally after this tragedy. But his assertion that AAP spokespersons were belligerent and (implicitly) were callous, is untenable. Arvind Kejriwal was openly self critical. AAP sent a team to Dausa and gave ₹10 lakhs to the bereaved family and offered to fund the children's education, as well as bear the costs of a family marriage.
The Delhi police, of course, is hounding AAP with charges of abetting suicide, common intent, among other charges, but little is being said about that. But Apoorvanand accuses "the spokespersons of the ruling party of Delhi let out filth with stunning ferocity."
This is a singularly unfortunate exaggeration. One would expect Apoorvanand, a noted scholar and resolute secularist, to have also criticised the BJP and Congress. Both converged with hysterical attacks on AAP with some even putting pressure on some channels to allege that Gajendra was murdered. But on this he has been silent.
Politicising farmer's suicide
Gajendra Singh Rathore's tragic suicide has become political. It was bound to for this reason: Gajendra Singh died at an AAP rally on 22 April in Jantar Mantar. This was a sufficient excuse to attack AAP which has routed both the BJP and Congress in the Delhi Assembly. So these parties have levelled unsubstantiated charges against AAP. The Union government controls the police.
It should be noted that senior police officers including Police Commissioner Bassi have attended social occasions hosted by NDA leaders, allegedly including outside Delhi. The police as expected is putting the bulk of the blame on AAP with stringent sections of the IPC and CrPC being levelled against Arvind Kejriwal and his colleagues.
To avoid partiality in investigations, AAP has appointed a magisterial inquiry. The police refused to cooperate, though reportedly it has cooperated in such an inquiry in the past. The media, initially biased, now after the NDTV and other videos knows that Gajendra Singh was asked to climb down by two AAP leaders including Manish Sisodia who gestured to AAP cadre to bring him down and Kumar Vishwas who pleaded to Gajendra to climb down. He was requested to come and speak from the platform. The police present in large numbers was appealed to from the podium to bring Gajendra down.
While the family was given compensation and promises of education for his children, and support for the marriage of a family member, they have lost a father/ son/ relative. But there has been a great loss for law and order. A police force that appears to be coerced by the Union government and allegedly frames disproportionate charges, for all its training and dedication, loses public confidence and is seen as politicised.
The BJP and Congress have come out as brazen opportunists. While a section of the media was skeptical and at least partially aware at what was going on, another section tried to curry favour with the BJP. One channel, in fact, claimed that Gajendra's suicide was "motivated murder."
This is what our politics and democratic institutions have come to. All the while farmers are dying and starving. Not only should the land acquisition Bill be revoked, but large unpaid monthly instalments to MGNREGA have been pending for long.
As Oliver Goldsmith wrote during the enclosures movement, when common land was privatised in England, "princes and lords may flourish or may fade, a breath can make them as a breath has made, but the bold peasantry a country's pride, when once destroyed can never be supplied."
---
*Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi

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