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It was inevitable. The building farmer frustration is ready to explode. If not Gajendra Singh, it would be someone else. The writing has been on the wall. There is torment needing to be heard. A scream in the void.

In 2010 Ramchandra Raut composed his suicide note on non-judicial stamp paper, addressed it to the Prime Minister and President along with local leaders. He remained a statistic. In 2012, another farmer called Gajendra from Yavatmal had written a suicide note to his village warning them to not vote for Congress and NCP before committing suicide. He sank into the statistics without a splash. The suicide notes, last, desperate attempts to be heard went as unheard in death, as the farmer did in life.

Ironically, this morning, while Gajendra Singh was still alive, Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra's Chief Minister endorsed Eknath Khadse's fantasy method of recognizing farmer suicides as the ones where the farmers left behind suicide notes. From being the undisputed reining champion of farmer suicides to 3 suicides in one clever move. Not that those suicide letters meant anything either.

We are, sadly, an apathetic nation. Our conscience has been mortgaged to the media, which feeds us upstanding people regular doses of what should offend us. Letters written by nobodys don't reach us. When they reach us, they don't matter, unless the subject is dramatic enough to trend on social media.

Within minutes of the suicide being declared a "SUCCESS", media was harvesting the scandal. Politicians, normally serene about routine reports of farmer suicides rushed to establish their innocence and the guilt of their political rivals. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was "shattered", even as his anonytrolls started pushing a piece profiling Gajendra Singh as everything except a farmer who had jumped political parties and was a member of AAP at last check (well, d'uh, he was at the AAP rally). As astonishing as it was that media managed to dig up his political history within hours of his suicide, what was more astounding was the explanations - from planned political murder to an "AAP stunt" gone wrong. Amaingly, not only did Rajasthan have the records for crop losses and applications for compensation on the tips of their media responses, they even "proved" the family claim of reason for suicide being crop losses wrong. Within hours of his death. So much concern for farmers.

While it is unclear what stopping the rally would have achieved (BJP and Congress fixated on the AAP rally continuing after the suicide as well), it is less clear how a person can kill himself in a packed rally, though I imagine it is not easy to stop someone physically while on a tree. It is even less clear how a massive exhibition of love for our farmers can proceed unfazed by the death of a farmer in their midst. To be fair, from all accounts it appears that initially it seemed like a suicide attempt prevented and injured person taken to hospital. AAP, still recovering from its allergy with intellectuals went on a breath taking demonstration of blame and sarcastic defense with some record breaking insensitivity from leaders, which I don't care to repeat here. Congress, with its leader newly resurrected and for once speaking well went ahead and got in their points of Ganga-snan for self and blame for others as well.

In summary, both BJP and AAP managed some variation of "committed suicide to make us look bad".

So far, no one seems to have gotten around to asking "why did he kill himself?" with any level of firm intention or giving voice to the extremely open secret of the why - corporate media promoted and government passed policies that are ruining rural livelihoods and decimating farmers. Farmer suicides aren't just rising, they are rising in a rapidly dropping population of farmers farming decreasing area of land on an average. Instead, every effort is on to make this about this suicide specifically, and preferrably this suicide shouldn't be about farmer suicides at all.

To me, a public demonstration of suicide is more a protest than a mere giving up. Media and politicians may be covering their own culpability with a fog of words, but I understood this man to be trying what Mohamed Bouazizi's self immolation was, in Tunisia when it kicked off the Arab Spring. An expression of intense frustration, seeking echoes far and wide by being as visible as possible and "signing" the genuineness of the protest with own life.

Where BJP anonytrolls saw a political opportunist pinging off parties, I saw that the political experience showed him how he could commit suicide to be heard. If not in life, then in death. And where countless ignorant farmers failed, he succeeded. Farmer suicides are finally prime time content. They will be the weapon of political confrontations, improving chances that someone, somewhere will be forced to change something, pay some more attention because of the one thing farmers so far had not managed to achieve. The one thing government in India understands. Nuisance value.

You may die a thousand deaths in complete silence. Your protest will get fired on. The day you burn a bus and attack a few people is the day the government leaves you alone to get whatever "justice" you want. The day your death causes a problem for important people is the day it gets attention. Till then it will only get murmurs of consolation and pleas to not die and ruin statistics for all of us.

Gajendra Singh managed to be a problem today. He died on the doorstep of politicians and in media's eye before they could avert it. The plight of farmers is a long way from being addressed, but the "nuisance" and thus the imperative to be at least seen doing something has already begun. In blaming each other, politicians are establishing collective guilt.

Naturally, the wise media has seen this despicable behavior and is busy commenting on how ugly it is without realizing that as they point fingers at the politicians, they fail to see their own role in the plight of farmers. Here are two stills from AlJazeera's excellent short documentary on the Indian media's rural blind spot that no TV channel is going to show tonight.

Percentage of rural stories on front page of newspapers
Percentage of rural stories on front page of newspapers
Percentage of time devoted to rural news on TV
Percentage of time devoted to rural news on TV. These figures don't show more than 7% of the time for over 2/3 of India's population and YET are deceptive, because this time shown too is rarely about rural issues and more likely to be other selling news from rural locations.

 

A 2011 report on rural reporting in media by EPW
A 2011 report on rural reporting in media by EPW Source: sans serif

 

By all accounts, Gajendra Singh has screamed his scream. He will get a short window of time where farmer suicides will be reported diligently and politicians blamed and defended and a massive fog of words giving us the moral superiority of knowing exactly who to blame. Then it will die down into oblivion.

It is up to us left living to decide whether the message he spent his life to communicate to us is important enough for us to carry forward the torch he desperately threw where no one can pretend to not see it.

If you scream into the void, did you scream at all?

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Vidarbha is the latest to fall to BJP's "con for vote" schemes.

BJP Maharashtra has been campaigning with a promise of a separate state for Vidarbha if it comes to power. Given a decimated Congress and Shiv Sena and NCP both adamantly opposed to any division of Maharashtra, there were no points for guessing who would get votes with such a statement in a place where the feeling of being wronged by the state government is very strong with the ongoing farmer suicides and irrigation scam and complete disinterest in fixing either beyond lip service.

While people of Vidarbha may have wanted a separate state, and while that is not necessarily a bad idea; BJP's voters in Maharshtra have a strong regional pride and would not appreciate division of the state. Enter the King of Spin. Narendra Modi very conveniently made a strong and categoric statement of an undivided Maharashtra with regard to separating Mumbai from Maharashtra - which no one was actually saying anything about.

“As long as I am sitting in Delhi, I assure you that no power can divide Maharashtra. Some people are spreading rumors that BJP will sever Mumbai from Maharashtra. It’s a lie. Maharashtra is incomplete without Mumbai.”

Within hours of Modi providing this reassurance to the whole of Maharashtra (so that they could safely vote for BJP - which they wouldn't, if BJP was out to break Maharashtra), local BJP leaders in Vidarbha pretend to be appropriately upset and assure their voters that Modi did not mean Vidarbha - he was speaking about Mumbai (with no mention of who actually was claiming to separate Mumbai) and that he remained committed to Vidarbha as a separate state.

“Prime Minister did not rule out Vidarbha state. He was only countering the propaganda of severing Mumbai from Maharashtra. No one can snatch Mumbai from Maharashtra but he knows our stand on small states. He has always favored it and it will come in front of everyone at an appropriate time,”

The very first sentence from this quote by Dev Fadnavis - BJP Maharashtra leader and contesting from Vidarbha himself - is a flat out lie. "I assure you that no power can divide Maharashtra" is fairly categoric in ruling out any division including Vidarbha. Regardless, this was the con sold to the people of Vidarbha, which got challenged by other political parties, but by and large ignored by most of the Maharashtrian population. I asked half a dozen people on whim, and they were categoric that they would NOT vote for BJP at the cost of Vidarbha. And BJP knows this. This clarification of Vidarbha being the exception to an undivided Maharashtra (pretty massive exception, yes?) was not made outside Vidarbha in any prominent manner.

Still, a generous person could explain this away as a communication gap. We could believe that BJP Maharashtra leader actually had no idea of what Modi was going to say in Maharashtra in their support. Regardless, BJP is extremely unlikely to create Vidarbha and the mathematics of it cannot have been unknown to anyone promising Vidarbha a separate statehood. Here is why.

  1. BJP does not have a simple majority, and any ally they find is unlikey to support a separate Vidarbha.
  2. With 44 out of 62 seats in Vidarbha, a Maharashtra without Vidarbha would leave BJP very far away from the numbers to make a government.

The second could be called BJP's helplessness in spite of its intention, except - BJP would be unlikely to get numbers allowing them to split Maharashtra promising to separate Vidarbha anyway - UNLESS THIS DECEPTION WAS WELL PLANNED.

BJP is unlikely to give up control over Maharashtra just to keep an election promise (they have broken promises for far less stakes). BJP is also unlikely to win any election if they collapse for lack of numbers because they split the state. Maharashtra and its money would be out of reach till people drifted into memory loss.

So this cannot be an accidental thing.

Wait. It gets worse. It can be argued that as long as Vidarbha does well, whether it is a separate state is not such an issue.  Fix Irrigation scam, develop irrigation so that people thrive, answer their serious problems around GM seeds and health and they won't need a separate state to be heard. Except on the other side of the politician-business cartel across from NCP were BJP's cronies. So yeah, it is going to be a long wait before BJP stops making an inconclusive drama over NCP corruption and moves to actually getting everyone involved in that racket punished.

And you can't fool the people all the time. When allowing GM food trials, BJP had not cared about the support of SSS that it has exploited on the way to power, but people see how decisions are made and in whose interest. Of the 122 seats BJP has in Maharashtra, 44 are from Vidarbha which was promised separate statehood BJP would not deliver, 26 are poached candidates belonging to other parties with strong bases they hadn't built by acting like BJP. Mumbai and Thane account for 24 seats and Pune accounts for 8. How much exactly did the Modi wave sweep non-metro, non-poached, non-conned Maharashtra? 20 seats?

Now that BJP has Vidarbha's votes, how many of you readers think it is going to make the separate state and collapse its numbers for the Maharashtra government?

And thus, the suicide capital of the country was exploited for its frustration as well and all that it is going to get now that elections are over is THENGA.

Or in other words, the next entity BJP is going to stab in the back after courting for votes or power is Vidarbha.

Note: Bhakts, it is easy to prove me wrong. I'll be wrong automatically when you create the Vidarbha state or punish not just your political rivals in scams, but the whole cartels (who are also your cronies) bleeding those voters you conned into voting for you. No further trolling needed, if the party is honest about its promises, it will deliver and I will be proved to be wrong.

Woman from Ulhasnagar beaten till unconscious to intimidate daughter into withdrawing sexual harassment complaint. Assaulter free, frames family instead.

What happens when you face sexual harassment and you go and register a case with the police as a conscientious citizen who believes that the country's law enforcing system will provide her relief? Here is what happens: your mother is severely beaten up, your brother is implicated in a false case and is arrested and you and your family are threatened with dire consequences if you do not withdraw your case. Crime rules in Ulhasnagar, not far from Mumbai, the financial capital of the country.

[name redacted to protect identity] lives in Ulhasnagar with her two brothers and her mother. When she could no more put up with the sexual harassment by a neighbour; she decided to act. She also decided to follow the law as a good citizen and went and registered a case. Little did she know of the ordeal awaiting her and her family.

No action was taken against the accused; but she started getting pestered to withdraw her case. The pressure mounted when she refused. On 26th April 2014, when she and her brothers were away, the Chairman of the Society where she lives, and his daughter along with four other men, beat her mother severely with bamboo sticks at 7 PM right in the premises of the Society, till she became unconscious. On gaining consciousness, she called her children and advised the son who was nearest, to seek help from police.

That's again being a responsible citizen, right? Unfortunately law operates differently for the likes of her, for the Aam Adami and for those with political clout: she received no help. So, she herself went to the police station to lodge a complaint. She found that the Chairman, Shri Anil Kumar Pandey was already there and she refused to give a statement under duress. Ultimately, [name redacted] and the other brother reached the police station and the formality of filing an FIR was completed by 10 in the night. To add insult to injury, she was to see a counter complaint filed against her and her family.

What happens next? The police detain the brother and implicating him under serious charges, arrest him! The family is threatened with dire consequences if the original complaint is not withdrawn. And those who are terrorizing the hapless family are of course moving about freely.

Is it because Shri Anil Kumar Pandey is a local neta of the NCP? Does the law operate differently when a neta of the party in the ruling alliance is involved? Is this not a loud and clear signal for the public, the Aam Adami, to beware of trying to oppose the high and mighty political masters?

But the girl has decided to fight it out. As a last resort, she has appealed to AAP to try and get her justice. AAP is leading a crusade against corruption at all levels. as a part of the crusade, it is our duty to highlight such incidents. We demand that a proper investigation be conducted in the entire matter and justice be delivered. And we also wish to make an appeal to the Home Minister Shri R R Patil to carry out his moral responsibility of providing a woman with security.

press release from Aam Aadmi Party Maharashtra media cell.