WITH THE protests against the Centre’s new farm laws nearing their fourth week without any sign of a resolution, a 70-year-old farmer from Tarn Taran in Punjab allegedly attempted suicide on Monday morning by consuming tablets meant for pest control soon after he had reached the Singhu border to Delhi to join the agitation.
Police have identified the farmer as Niranjan Singh from Bhatal Bhai Ke village, and said he was first admitted to the Civil Hospital in Sonipat and later referred to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Rohtak.
SP (Sonipat) Jashandeep Singh Randhawa told The Indian Express that Singh’s “vitals are stable, as of now”. A senior police officer said: “The investigation officer has recorded the statement of Niranjan Singh in which he stated that he was disturbed by the condition of farmers at the protests and the apathy of the government.”
The bid comes five days after a Sikh preacher died after reportedly shooting himself with his licensed revolver at Kundli near the Singhu border. In a purported suicide note, the preacher, Baba Ram Singh, said he was pained by the plight of farmers.
At Niranjan Singh’s village, his family members said they were shocked by the suicide attempt as he had no financial problems and was “a very religious man”. Singh is the father of five sons, one of whom died in the early 1990s, and the family owns around 25 acres of land.
Singh’s granddaughter Mandeep Kaur said he had called her last night and “enquired about my children”. “He didn’t sound depressed. I was taken aback when I learnt about his suicide attempt…We are not under debt. There is nothing that is bothering the family financially or otherwise,” she said.
Police sources said Singh consumed celphos tablets after drafting a note in Gurmukhi, in which he wrote that he couldn’t “tolerate” the plight of farmers and hoped that his act would “open the eyes and ears” of the government.
The sources said the letter starts with a quote from the Gurbani: “Jay jeevai pat lathee jaa-ay, sab haraam jaytaa kichh khaa-ay (Those who merely live shall depart in dishonour; everything they eat is impure).”
There is also a line from the poet Muhammad Iqbal: “Mudate guzri hai itni, ranj-jo gam sehte huye, sharam si aati hai iss watan ko watan kehte hue (Years have passed enduring this suffering, it’s a bit embarrassing to call this our country).”
“I have been watching our brothers, sisters, elders and children sitting on railway tracks and roads, without a roof, under rain, storm and fog. It makes me wonder whether we are people of this country. Why are we getting the treatment of slaves by the government of today?” he wrote.
“Our ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur had raised his voice against injustice and sacrificed his life… I am sacrificing my life so that our voice can reach the deaf and dumb government,” Singh wrote before signing the note as a “servant of the Guru and sangat (congregation)”.
Niranjan Singh had left for the Singhu border on Sunday with village sarpanch Balbir Singh and some members of the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, and planned to stay at the protest site for a few days.
Mukhtar Singh (60), who was part of the group, said: “We started from our village in a car on Sunday and reached Delhi at 6 am today. When we reached Singhu, some of us went near the stage. I heard that he attempted suicide when an announcement was made on stage… He said he couldn’t bear the pain that the farmers were undergoing. We are shocked.”
(With Somya Lakhani/Delhi)