- Baba Ram Singh dedicated his life to the service of people: ML Khattar
- This is the first official reaction from BJP-ruled Haryana on the death
- The priest allegedly shot himself last evening at the Delhi border
A day after a Sikh priest supporting the farmer protests died by suicide at the Delhi-Haryana border, ML Khattar, the Chief Minister of Haryana, expressed grief, saying Baba Ram Singh dedicated his life to the service of people.
This is the first official reaction from BJP-ruled Haryana on the death that has intensified politics over the farmer protests, with the opposition saying the central government's "brutality has crossed all limits".
"I am saddened by Baba Ram Singh's death. He spent his entire life serving people and lived only for others," Mr Khattar tweeted.
Baba Ram Singh, 65, a priest at a Gurdwara in Haryana, allegedly shot himself last evening in a car at the Delhi-Sonipat border at Kundli, two km from the epicenter of the weeks-long farmer protests at Singhu border.
In a note, he said he was sacrificing his life "to express anger and pain against the government's injustice".
"I feel the pain of farmers fighting to ensure their rights... I share their pain because the government is not doing justice to them. To inflict injustice is a sin, but it is also a sin to tolerate injustice. To support farmers, some have returned their awards to the government. I have decided to sacrifice myself," the handwritten note said.
His funeral will be held in Karnal on Friday, according to his followers.
Opposition leaders have been tweeting since last evening, offering condolences and targeting the ruling BJP.
"Sant Baba Ram Singh from Karnal died by suicide over the farmers' condition at Kundli border. My condolences in this moment of grief... many farmers have sacrificed their lives. The Modi government has crossed all the limits of cruelty. Stop being adamant, take back the anti-farmer laws," Congress's Rahul Gandhi tweeted in Hindi.
"Anguished to hear that Sant Baba Ram Singh ji Nanaksar Singhra wale shot himself at Singhu border in Kisan Dharna, looking at farmers' suffering. Sant ji's sacrifice won't be allowed to go in vain. I urge GOI not to let situation deteriorate any further & repeal the 3 agri laws," tweeted senior Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Badal, a former BJP ally.
"The news of Sant Baba Ram Singh Ji's suicide is very painful. In this hour of grief, condolences to his family. Our farmers are asking for their rights. The government should listen to the voice of farmers and withdraw the three laws," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote.
Since the end of November, tens of thousands of farmers have gathered at the borders of Delhi from Punjab and Haryana, to protest against three laws passed in September. They believe the laws -- which the centre says are necessary for agricultural reforms -- will deprive them of minimum guaranteed earnings and leave them open to exploitation by corporates.
More than 20 of the protesters have died, farmers' representatives claim.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday told the government that negotiations had so far yielded nothing and were unlikely to. The court suggested a panel with representatives from the government and farmers for a solution before the protest went national.
"Your negotiation will again fail as they won't agree. Give us names of (farmers') organizations that can be before us... This will soon become a national issue and will have to solved through negotiations," Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said.