Gajendra Singh Kalyanwat was, if one is to go by his website jaipurisaffe.com, what would be called an artisanal entrepreneur. In the slider on his site, he can be seen tying colourful Rajasthani headscarves for BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi, Nepal's Vice-President Parmanand Jha, and even officials working with the royal family of Jaipur.
So what possessed Singh to take his own life at the Aam Aadmi Party’s kisan rally at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Tuesday, triggering chaos in Parliament and a political blame-game that doesn’t seem to show any signs of abating.
While his suicide may have raised the decibel, and awareness about farm distress in India, it has also raised more questions about who he really was and why he took his own life?
According to a report in The Indian Express, Singh was anything but a distressed farmer, as initially claimed.
In Nangal Jhamarwada, Rajasthan, where his family lives, his sister Rekha Kanwal dismissed talk of her brother being a distressed farmer.
“My brother did not labour in the fields. We hired labour for that… At any given point of time, there would be at least six workers in the house. My brother loved farming, so he would plant amla trees and fruit trees but would never do manual labour,” she told The Indian Express.
Singh’s family owns a pucca house, a farm that spreads 40 bighas between his father Gane Singh and uncle Gopal Singh – who is also the village sarpanch – three buffaloes, six cows, and two tractors.
Rekha even claims that she had spoken with her brother when he was at the rally and that he told her he would return to Jaipur that evening.
He was even carrying Rs 1.5 lakh he had earned that day from his turban-tying business, which friends and relatives said had been booming.
Singh’s younger brother Vijendra, who works at a coaching centre in Jaipur, told The Indian Express that Gajendra told him he was in touch with AAP leader Manish Sisodia. “My brother was a regular at public rallies and I saw nothing unusual in his behaviour,” Vijendra said.
Gajendra Singh was also reported to be interested in politics but was denied a ticket by the Samajwadi Party.
Another sister, Vinod, trashed talk of her brother being upset over crop loss. “Why would he commit suicide? And that for being upset over crop loss. This is absolute rubbish. My brother wasn’t a petty farmer. He was a big person,” he told the Express.
Hindustan Times quotes local officials as saying that crop loss in the Baswa tehsil, under which Gajendra’s village falls, had been 20-25%, far less than the damage in many other parts of Rajasthan.
So, even as the mystery whether Gajendra intended to commit suicide due to farm distress or it was a political stunt gone wrong continues — many in social media have been insinuating the latter for the past two days — the tragic incident has given political parties enough reason to target each other.
Maybe we will never know what killed Gajendra Singh.