The power of the dominant classes – whether social or political or any other – can be as potent as that of those they seek to dominate. And the hypocrisy of the ‘protectors’ and the subjects they target could be on par in their self-seeking intent. However, the manipulations of the former result in profit or null gain for the rent-seekers, whereas those of the latter often is a trial by fire and can result in harmful consequences that are often not immediately cognisable.
Take the case of the recent tragic death of the Indian farmer, #GajendraSinghRajput, who, either intentionally or accidentally, hung himself with a scarf tied to the branch of a tree. The incident occurred at the very venue where Gajendra was attending a rally by a political party that was seeking to voice farmers’ concerns over a legislation pertaining to land acquisition. The questionable, purported ‘suicide note’ (hotly contested by the family of the deceased on several valid grounds), indicates that Gajendra was a farmer in distress.
On the surface, it appears that the cause which instigated the political rally and the cause which supposedly provoked the farmer to what appeared to be a suicide are at odds. It is a well-documented fact that farmers have for long been at the receiving end of erratic weather, volatile market prices, capricious policies and arbitrary administrative mechanisms. Even the suicides, with which they sought to shock the nation out of its stupor, have now become a statistic and a political number game. Under the circumstances, farmers, left to themselves, may prefer to give up their land for a fair compensation. Why should the suicide of a farmer in distress, at the venue of the rally, be construed as a stricture against those clamouring for the land acquisition legislation – when neither circumstances nor the note itself lead us to believe that this is the case? But political parties have been quick to wilfully read the meanings they want, animatedly swooping down on the poor farmer’s death.
On the flip side, reports based on first hand interviews with family and the community of his village have clearly indicated that Gajendra’s participation in the rally that sought to question the land acquisition legislation was a conscious decision of a politically active person. Though they had suffered extensive loss to their crops due to unseasonal rains this year, Gajendra and his family had not been reduced to a hand to mouth existence. By all accounts of the family and the community, it appears that Gajendra was not depressed or in danger of being reduced to penury. So, why did he climb up a tree and make a speech, with a broom – the insignia of the political party conducting the rally in hand – and end up taking his life? Why did he, as reported, ask members of his family to watch him on television? Despite the heart-rendingly tragic circumstances of his death, it needs to be asked if Gajendra was a farmer who was induced to use the occasion to make a political statement or one who allowed his identity as a farmer to be used by politicians? Was he a martyr to the cause of farmers or a victim of political opportunism?