In Gajendra Singh’s Nangal Jhamarwada village everybody has a doubt.
Did Gajendra really write a suicide note? If yes, did he tell the truth about his plight? Who gave him the towel he turned into a noose? Whose battle was he fighting—his own or of farmers? What was the nature of his relation with his father?
Cops are yet to speak to the family or people of this dusty, sun-baked village in Dausa, around 100km east of Jaipur. But the media has already conducted an inquest, asked several questions and grilled every available villager. Every answer, however, has left behind a few more questions.
Gajendra’s family says he was not thrown out of home by his father, a claim that contradicts the note he left behind. The bereaved father himself doesn’t say much. But villagers say he was extremely fond of his son and fainted several times on hearing of his death.
The family has around 17 bigha of inherited land in the village. All of it is in the father’s name. Gajendra made a living helping his father manage the farm during the sowing season. When there was nothing to do in the village, he would tie colorful Rajasthani turbans at hotels. going by their pucca house and the paved road that leads to it, Gajendra seemed to have done well juggling farming and his small enterprise.
This year there wasn’t much to do on the farm.
In March the weather turned inclement and destroyed crops in 33 districts of Rajasthan. According to state government officials, in Gajendra’s village 20 to 30 percent of the crops are said to have been destroyed. The villagers, however, put the figure at 80 percent.
Three days ago, Gajendra left the village saying he was going to Jaipur. So, his sister was surprised when she got a call from him around 1:30 pm on Wednesday, saying he would soon appear on TV. “There was a wedding in the family; his cousin was getting married. So, Gajendra told his sister that he would return after appearing on TV,” says his friend Surendra Singh.
He didn’t. Only his body returned to the village, just before his cousin’s wedding.
“He didn’t mention suicide. There was no indication that he had any financial worries. Nobody ever saw him with a gamcha (towel). His death doesn’t make sense,” his family argues.
Some of his friends like Surendra, however, claim that Gajendra was always a fighter; give him a cause and he would be first to stand up for it, they vouch. He wanted to make a name, be known as somebody important, had a weakness for photo-ops, was used to publicity—his twirling moustache and impressive beard had won him the title of Rajasthan Kesari—and had political ambitions.
Nobody knows what killed him.
Was it an accident; or a desperate bid to get into the limelight even if it meant paying for it with his life?
Dead men do not confess. So we will never know. And the doubts will remain as long as Gajendra’s story is told in the village.
To his credit, Gajendra has achieved what thousands of farmers who commit suicide every year could not. Like John Doe, protagonist of the eponymous Hollywood film (later remade as Main Azad Hoon) who offers to impersonate a non-existent person and commit suicide for a cause, Gajendra has managed to draw attention to the plight of farmers.
Around the time Gajendra’s body was being brought to his village, just a few km away in Alwar, Harsukh Lal Jatav threw himself in front of a train. Jatav had taken around 12 bigha land on lease for farming. But the wheat crop he had sown was destroyed by rain. He had borrowed Rs 2 lakh from a bank, while another 1.5 lakh was to be paid to the owner of the leased land.
In Rajasthan, many farmers like Jatav are on the brink of ruin. They have lost an estimated Rs 8,500 crore because of unseasonal rain and hailstorms. In nearly 21,000 villages of the state, desperate farmers and their families are waiting for somebody to bail them out. The state government, in turn, has sought a compensation package of nearly Rs 8,200 crore from the Centre.
On any other day, Jatav’s death and his story would have been ignored. But on Thursday it was there on the front page of every important newspaper in the state.
We can question Gajendra’s intentions. But his death has turned him into a martyr for the cause of farmers.
About this, there should be no doubt.
Updated Date: Apr 24, 2015 07:34 AM