NEW DELHI: In the first untoward incident, in what has been largely a peaceful farmers’ agitation, a 65-year-old Sikh preacher shot himself with a licensed gun, ostensibly in solidarity with the protestors.
He hailed from Karnal in Haryana and committed suicide near the Singhu border – the nerve centre of the agitation.
The deceased, Sant Baba Ram Singh, was an office bearer in many Sikh organisations, including Haryana SGPC, media reports said.
In a handwritten note, found near his body, Singh wrote that he was distressed at the plight of the farmers and upset at the 'government's oppression'.
"I feel the pain of farmers fighting to ensure their rights... I share their pain because the government is not doing justice to them. To inflict injustice is a sin, but it is also a sin to tolerate injustice. To support farmers, some have returned their awards to the government. I have decided to sacrifice myself," read the note he left at his side.
Rahul Gandhi immediately latched onto the incident and told the government in a tweet: Stop being adamant and immediately withdraw the anti-agricultural law!
The suicide is expected to galvanise the movement against the farm laws; Since November end, tens of thousands of farmers have converged at the borders of Delhi from Punjab and Haryana. More than 20 of the protesters have died, mostly due to natural causes and a few in road mishaps, a farmers' representatives had claimed on Tuesday.
The activist had further declared that "a Homage Day (Shraddhanjali Diwas) for all farmers who lost their lives in the ongoing protest will be organised across the country in villages and tehsil headquarters on December 20 from 11 am to 1 pm."
Political observers said the homage is likely to get a further impetus following the suicide; the government will be under considerable pressure to control the collateral damage hereafter. Already, the agitation has led to many industrial units downing their shutters owing to disruption of supply lines.