A 65-year-old Sikh priest on Wednesday died by suicide near the Singhu border, the centre of the farmers’ protest against the agricultural laws, PTI reported. Baba Ram Singh left a note, in which he said that he was unable to bear the pain of farmers.
Singh was the priest of a gurdwara in Haryana, according to NDTV. He was at the Delhi-Sonipat border at Kundli on Wednesday.
Sonipat Deputy Commissioner of Police Shyam Lal Poonia told NDTV that Singh shot himself inside a car. “He was rushed to Park hospital in Panipat and was declared dead on arrival by the doctors,” he added.
In the note that he left behind, Singh said he was hurt to see that the government was not giving the farmers justice, according to India Today. “I have witnessed the plight of the farmers, who are on the streets, struggling for their rights,” Singh wrote in Punjabi. “It is a crime. It is a sin to oppress and it is a sin to suffer.”
Singh added in his note: “This servant commits self-immolation against the government oppression [and] in favour of the farmers. It [The act] is the voice against the oppression and the voice in favour of the farmers.”
Several political leaders expressed their grief over Singh’s death. “Extremely shocked and saddened on learning of the tragic news of Sant Ram Singh ji of Nanaksar Singhra wale from Karnal ending his life at Singhu Border in protest against the Centre’s Farm Laws,” Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh tweeted. “My prayers are with his family and supporters in this time of grief.”
Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal said he was anguished to hear about Singh’s death. “Sant ji’s [Singh’s] sacrifice won’t be allowed to go in vain,” he tweeted. “I urge GOI [the Government of India] not to let situation deteriorate any further and repeal the 3 agri [agriclture] laws.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi offered his condolences to Singh’s family. “Many farmers have sacrificed their lives,” he said. “The cruelty of the Modi [Narendra Modi-led] government has crossed all limits. Quit stubbornness and immediately withdraw the anti-agricultural law!”
Another farmer dies of cold
Another protesting farmer died, allegedly of cold, near the Delhi-Haryana border on Thursday morning, reported NDTV. The 37-year-old farmer had three sons aged 10, 12 and 14, the report said.
A farmer at Singhu border said in the morning that they were fighting the cold weather and would keep fighting it till their demands are met. “We will not budge even if it rains,” the farmer said.
The temperature dipped to 5.3 degrees Celsius, three degrees below normal, in the morning, according to the Hindustan Times. On Wednesday, the India Meteorological Department had predicted that temperatures would drop further and “cold wave” conditions would prevail in parts of Delhi on Thursday and Friday.
The farm law protests
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for the last 21 days. More than 20 of the protestors have died so far, according to NDTV.
The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court suggested the formation of a panel with the representatives of the farmers and the Centre to resolve the deadlock over the three new agricultural laws. The court said that the standoff over the new laws will have to be resolved urgently “otherwise this will soon become a national issue”.
On December 9, the farmers had rejected the Centre’s written proposal on the amendments it was willing to make to the three agriculture laws, and intensified their protests. Both parties had also held several rounds of talks but failed to reach a consensus.