An advocate from Jalalabad in Punjab’s Fazilka district, who had been protesting with farmers affiliated to the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Ugrahan at Delhi’s Tikri border, died by suicide on Sunday morning.
Amarjit Singh Rai consumed the farm pesticide sulphos about 200 metres from the stage at the protest site that farmers have named Gadri Gulab Kaur Nagar. Before collapsing, he gave two printed letters — one of which was addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi — to other protesters.
65-year-old Karnal-based religious leader died of a gunshot wound near Singhu, leaving behind a purported suicide note that said he was pained by the farmers’ plight. Subsequently, a 70-year-old farmer from Tarn Taran allegedly attempted to kill himself by consuming pesticide tablets.
“At 8.48 am, I got a call from him (Amarjit). He said he had consumed sulphos. I reached him by 8.55 am. He handed us two typed letters before falling unconscious,” said Ram Kumar Munshi, who had been camping with Amarjit at Tikri border since December 16.
Munshi said Amarjit was taken to the Bahadurgarh civil hospital and then to PGIMS Rohtak, where he was declared dead. Members of Amarjit’s family said he was 63 years old.
“We have received information regarding the death of an advocate at Naya Gaon Chowk near Tikri. A team has been sent to look into the matter,” Ashok Kumar, DSP (Badli), said.
One of the two letters that Amarjit gave to other protesters was from the Bar Association, Jalalabad to the SDM, Jalalabad, over extending support to the peaceful protest by farmers.
The other was titled as a letter to the Prime Minister, and was signed “Amarjit Singh Advocate Bar Association Jalalabad (Fazilka)” and dated “18/12/2020”, in green ink.
“He got this letter from Jalalabad, he never went anywhere else to type any letter after December 16. He was a notary public and a popular lawyer of Jalalabad,” said Amritpal Singh, a Jalalabad resident who is also at the Tikri border.
“He met us smilingly on Sunday morning,” Amritpal said. “We had no idea that he would take this extreme step, even though he had been deeply disturbed about the new laws.”
However, he was declared dead at the hospital, leaving behind only a suicide note titled “Letter To Modi, the Dictator.”
The letter dated December 18, read:
“The General Public of India has given you absolute majority, power and faith for saving and prospering their life. But with great sorrow and pains, I have to write that you have become the Prime Minister of special groups like Ambani and Adani etc… In order to feed some capitalists you have destroyed the common people and agriculture which is the backbone of India.”
He further appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi not snatch livelihood from the peasantry and asked him to listen to the voice of people and God.
A fellow protester, Jaspreet Singh from Jalalabad, said Singh stayed at a camp in his neighbourhood near Pakoda Chowk in Bahadurgarh for a fortnight before his death.
Earlier, a 65-year-old priest at a Gurudwara and a 22-year-old farmer had resorted to similar steps to support farmers. Farmer leaders paid their respects to these and many such martyrs on December 20.
They also resolved to intensify protests to oppose the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance & Farm Services Act, the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
Despite everything, they also invited protesting farmers and citizens of Delhi to come together on New Year’s Eve and celebrate and live through the end of 2020 together. The move would also symbolise citizen’s support for the struggle.