NEW DELHI: This morning, he was an unknown face at the Aam Aadmi Party rally in Delhi, noticeable only because of his elaborate turban and forked beard.
Hours later, Gajendra Singh had hanged himself before a large number of people and TV cameras, and come to symbolise the sufferings of farmers pushed to the edge by massive crop loss because of unseasonal rain.
“Gajendra’s death has saddened the nation, we are deeply shattered and disappointed. At no point must the hardworking farmer think he is alone,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
41-year-old Gajendra had come from Dausa in Rajasthan, where he had once contested an election. He had won only around 3,000 votes as a Samajwadi Party candidate in the 2003 state polls, and lost his deposit.
His political past provided grist for conspiracy theories. He was known to be politically active and a regular at rallies and protests. One of his rival candidates remembers him campaigning on a cycle.
In a sea of farmers from various states, Gajendra blended in with his Khaki kurta, dhoti, turban and white shawl.
The crowd’s attention turned to him only when he climbed a tree and sat on a branch, shouting and holding a broom, the symbol of AAP.
Witnesses say after standing precariously on the branch, he made a noose out of his scarf and hanged himself before anyone could react. He even flung a suicide note at the crowd, in which he had written that he was unable to feed his three children anymore. He also said his father had thrown him out after he lost his crops. “Where will I go now?” he wrote.
Hundreds of farmers have suffered damage to their winter crops from unseasonal rain and many suicides have been reported in recent weeks.
Opposition parties like the Congress have rallied farmers against the government’s proposal to make it easier to buy farmland for development projects.