A suicide which shook India (First Person)

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New Delhi, April 22: The witty Bhagwant Mann had finished his speech, and his AAP colleague Kumar Vishwas was tearing into the Narendra Modi government over its land ordinance when the AAP leader spotted a man seemingly hanging from a Neem tree at a party rally here on Wednesday.

Halting his speech for a while, Kumar Vishwas loudly ordered the police to get the man - who turned out be Gajendra Singh, a farmer from Rajasthan - off the tree. [Delhi: Farmer commits suicide at Kejriwal's rally; read his suicide note]

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The venue was Jantar Mantar, a popular protest site in the heart of the capital. The Aam Aadmi Party had called the rally against the government's land ordinance.

I looked up from the media stage. The bearded man with a burly moustache, sporting a colourful turban, was perched precariously on the branch of the tree.

From that distance it looked as if he was holding on two branches with his outstretched hands.

When police did not respond, the AAP leader asked AAP volunteers to do the rescue act.

Little did he - or Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, seated on the dais - know that the father of three was already dead, having tied his scarf to a tree bench, to end a life that his suicide note said was now worthless after the destruction of his crops by untimely rains.

Three volunteers, among an estimated 4,000 who had packed the square to hear Kejriwal, quickly climbed the tree. Journalists began to move towards the tree as well.

In no time, the spotlight shifted from the Aam Aadmi Party stage to the tree. The volunteers untied the scarf to see if they could somehow save him.

All hell broke loose when Gajendra Singh's limp body fell from a considerable height with a loud thud as the activists couldn't hold on to him. Frenzied AAP members began shouting anti-police slogans.

I was among the first journalists to see the man. He was breathless. The tongue was slightly protruding.

One of the three men who had climbed the tree himself lost consciousness, probably after he realised that the man may not be alive.

Others clambered up and brought him down after sprinkling water on him.

In the meantime, some AAP members rushed to the dais and spoke, in hushed tones, to Kumar Vishwas and then to Kejriwal about the unfolding tragedy.

Before police reached the site, photo and video journalists shoved each other to take pictures.

There was confusion: Was he dead?

Amid all the drama, Kumar Vishwas continued to speak. AAP activists rushed Gajendra Singh to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, about two kilometres away.

There, doctors declared the man dead.

At the end of the rally, Kejriwal expressed sadness over the incident, implying he still did not know that the man was dead. He declared that he would go to the hospital with his deputy, Manish Sisodia.

By then, the incident had ignited a political storm. It was ironic that a rally called to protest a farmers' issue witnesses the death of yet one more Indian farmer.

IANS

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