Minutes before he hanged himself from a tree at an Aam Aadmi Party rally in New Delhi Wednesday to set off a political furore, Gajendra Singh got a call from his younger sister Rekha Kanwar. He sounded cheerful and told Rekha he would be with her in Jaipur by evening.
“One couldn’t hear him properly because there was cheering, shouting in the background. He said he was at a public rally and promised to return by evening. He said he was carrying Rs 1.5 lakh he had earned from a contract for safa-tying at a Delhi wedding. We were planning to buy furniture, clothes and gifts for our niece whose wedding had been fixed for April 27,” said Rekha.
She is one of his five sisters. He also has two brothers. Rekha’s house in Jaipur was the official address for Gajendra’s safa business.
His death sparked a blame game inside and outside Parliament on the plight of farmers in distress. But relatives, friends and neighbours said Bablu, as they fondly called Gajendra, never showed signs of being “distressed” over losses. His safa business, they said, was booming. They said his political ambitions, which had waned after he had been denied a SP ticket in 2003, had rekindled somewhat in recent months.
He was in the “best of spirits because his favourite niece” was getting married. “Just last week, he returned from Jaisalmer where there is ancestral property. We bought a new motorcycle and he gifted it to our niece for her wedding. She was very close to him because she grew up in our village home. She left only a couple of months ago for Ajmer where her parents live. The entire family, especially Gajendra, was busy preparing for the wedding,” Rekha said.
Gajendra’s daughter Megha (17) recalled how he had bagged a safa contract in Agra and two more in Delhi recently. “He had gone to Agra. He came home briefly,” she said.
A frequent traveller, he lived out of a backpack and very few in the family would know his whereabouts. From what they have been able to piece together, he came home from Agra, and set out for Jaisalmer. He stopped at Jaipur, and delivered the motorcycle to his niece in Ajmer. He returned to Jaipur and set out for Delhi on Tuesday afternoon.
Devendra Singh, one of the brothers of Gajendra, is a constable with the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary. On Thursday, he rejected the AAP offer for Rs 10 lakh compensation for his brother’s death. “I offer Rs 1 crore to AAP leaders if they return my brother alive,” Devendra told reporters about compensation offers pouring in.
Younger brother Vijendra, who works at a coaching centre in Jaipur, said: “On Wednesday morning, when I called him, he said he was in Delhi and that he would be going for the AAP rally. He said 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.”
Vinod Kanwar, another of his sisters, who lives in Bawal, said: “Why would he commit suicide? And that too because he was upset over crop loss. This is absolute rubbish. My brother wasn’t a petty farmer. He was a big person.”
Aunt Usha Chouhan agrees. “This is one of the most affluent families in the village. They have been jagirdars, not farmers who work in the fields. Between them, Gajendra’s father Bane Singh and his uncle Gopal Singh, who is the sarpanch, own over 40 bighas.” She lives in Delhi and was the first to be called by Delhi Police for identification of the body.
Rekha too dismissed talk of her brother being a distressed farmer. “My brother did not labour in the fields. We hired labour for that. Even our cows and buffaloes are milked and fed by workers. The women in the family do not do these odd jobs. At any given point of time, there are at least six-seven workers in the house. My brother loved farming, so he would plant amla trees, fruit trees but would never do manual labour.”
In the village, the pucca house, sprawling farm, three buffaloes, six cows, two tractors are proof of their status. A marble porch leads to four rooms in the front, a central courtyard, another four rooms, a backyard, a kitchen and a washroom. Inside, there is a TV set with an Airtel DTH connection, three desert coolers, and a geyser in the washroom.
In his room, laminated photos of Gajendra are placed at vantage points. There is also a certificate of participation in a safa-tying contest in Jaisalmer last year. Next to a dining table is an old, green swivel chair which he used.
“My brother was a social worker and had political connections.” Rekha showed a white notebook in which Gajendra, the aspiring politician, had penned quotations. Newspaper clippings from 2003 tell the story of how he had been an aspirant for a SP poll ticket, how he would cycle to pitch for the party’s election symbol, how he attended every small rally in the area. In several pictures, he is the only one looking straight at the camera.
“He loved being the centre of attention. He would get himself photographed with leaders and the famous. He used to keep a camera in a pouch tied to his waist… He could never have committed suicide. It is possible that others around him egged him on to do something different. It is surprising how he got that gamchha (towel). He never carried one.”
The handwriting on what they are calling the suicide note too doesn’t match his writing in the notebook. It is a scrawl, not the neat hand he had.”
The purported suicide note left by Singh said he had lost his crop in last month’s untimely rain and hailstorm, though officials here say that crop damage in the Baswa tehsil, where his village is located, was not more than 20-25% which was far less than the damage in many other parts of Rajasthan.
Gajendra Singh’s Business Website