A farmer from Rajasthan committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree in dramatic circumstances, as hundreds of people watched, at a rally organized by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) against the Narendra Modi government's contentious land acquisition bill at Jantar Mantar here today.
The man was identified as Gajendra Singh, 42, a father of three, from Dausa in Rajasthan, who left a note at the scene saying that he was in deep distress because of the loss of his crops and his inability to look after his family.
The man climbed the tree and put his "gamcha" (towel around his neck and tied the other end to a branch of the tree. He kept shouting slogans from there in an apparent bid to draw the attention of the crowd to the plight of farmers. Many people urged him to come down, but he stayed put.
As some people climbed the tall tree to reach him and try and bring him down, the man hanged himself and soon his body became still. When the other men reached him and tried to untie the knot from the branch, it fell to the ground.
He was rushed to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, and the rally went ahead, with AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal stepping up to address the gathering. At the end of his address, he announced he would go to the hospital to see the farmer.
The body was later sent to Lady Hardinge Hospital for post-mortem examination.
AAP leaders blamed the Delhi Police for remaining mute spectators and not acting in time to bring the man down and save him.
They also said the alleged anti-farmer and anti-poor polices of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre was leading to such tragedies.
They said that it was normal for people to climb onto trees to get a better view during meetings at Jantar Mantar and they could never imagine that the man would kill himself in this manner.
The BJP ridiculed Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders for continuing to make speeches even though they were aware that the man had died.
Doctors at the hospital said the man was brought dead. AAP leaders they came to know of the man's death only much later. They also said that a sudden dispersal of the crowd could have led to law and order problems.
Delhi Police said they had transferred the case to the Crime Branch, which has set up a team to establish the sequence of events.
As news of the tragedy spread, political leaders, including Mr Kejriwal, made a beeline to the hospital.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who has been attacking the Modi government on the Land Acquisition Bill and related issues for the past few days, told journalists at the hospital that it was a very sad moment.
"We want to assure farmers and farm labourers that they should not worry, we are with them. We will help them fully," he said.
He also said that members of the Indian Youth Congress would provide all possible assistance to the farmer's family in the matter of transporting the body to his village.
"The Modi government is fuly focused on heping the corporates of the country, not all corporates, but three or four of their cronies. This is causing tremendous pain and damage to farmers and labourers.
"The foundation of this country has been built by farmers. The government is saying that suicides are not taking place. It is sad," he said.
"We are going to fight the new ordinance of theirs," he said, referring to the Congress' opposition to the government's Bill to replace the ordinance on land acquisition issued by it.
"We are not going to let the BJP government to take away the land of the poor farmers," he added.
Mr Modi condoled the death of Gajendra, saying it had saddened the nation.
"We are all deeply shattered and disappointed. Condolences to his family. At no point must the hardworking farmer think he is alone. We are all together in creating a better tomorrow for the farmers of India," he said.