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Why protesting farmers are taking their own lives

30 August 2021
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Citing the martyrdom of the socialist revolutionary Bhagat Singh, the suicide note of Rajveer Singh, a 50-year-old farmer from Haryana’s Sisai village, read, “I would request the government to fulfil my last wish which would be to repeal the farm bills and send these innocent people happily back home.”

The people Rajveer wrote about, had found his body near the Rohtak-Delhi highway at the Tikri border protest site in Haryana, on 7 March. For over seven months, Rajveer alongside tens of thousands of other farmers, had been protesting in Haryana, Punjab and on the borders of Delhi against the three farm laws. The protests have remained active and growing despite police violence, incessant media criticism and several inconclusive rounds of talks with the government. Upwards of 500 farmers have reportedly died, most of natural causes, during the protests. Alongside them, several farmers have also died by suicide, a few of whom specifically noted that it was as a mark of protest against the farm laws and the government’s authoritarian treatment of Indian farmers.

Karamveer Singh’s body surrounded by mourning protestors at the Tikri border protest site. The government’s authoritarian reaction to the protests, still active nine months after they started, has deeply demoralised some sections of the protestors.. Karamveer Singh’s body surrounded by mourning protestors at the Tikri border protest site. The government’s authoritarian reaction to the protests, still active nine months after they started, has deeply demoralised some sections of the protestors..
Karamveer Singh’s body surrounded by mourning protestors at the Tikri border protest site. The government’s authoritarian reaction to the protests, still active nine months after they started, has deeply demoralised some sections of the protestors.

Rajveer had been able to make small profits on his crops because he could sell his grain at the government mandated minimum support price in mandis, government designated wholesale markets for grain. The MSP was the lifeblood of most farmers in the region. The farm laws have made many farmers fear that the stability offered by MSP cannot be easily counted on in the future. The importance of MSP was something he stressed in his suicide note too. “Don’t let my death go in vain, fight till they guarantee MSP for every farmer in this country,” it reads. Rajveer is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son.

A suicide note left by Karamveer at the Tikri border protest site. In the note, Karamveer demands that the farm laws be repealed. The note reads, “There is no estimate to when these laws will be repealed. We will not leave this place till these farm laws are repealed.”. A suicide note left by Karamveer at the Tikri border protest site. In the note, Karamveer demands that the farm laws be repealed. The note reads, “There is no estimate to when these laws will be repealed. We will not leave this place till these farm laws are repealed.”.
A suicide note left by Karamveer at the Tikri border protest site. In the note, Karamveer demands that the farm laws be repealed. The note reads, “There is no estimate to when these laws will be repealed. We will not leave this place till these farm laws are repealed.”

Varinder Maddoke is an independent art and documentary photographer. He works on issues of nature, the labour class and farm labour.

Keywords: Farmers' Protest Farmer Suicides Tikri Border farm laws 2020 MSP Punjab Haryana
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