On the morning of the 13th of October, passing villagers would have never imagined having to see the frail body of Raju Gyandare Talware which was hanging on a tree. Talware, who belonged to the Beldar caste (classified as a Scheduled Caste), had committed suicide by hanging himself. He belonged to Khatkhed village of Shegaon taluka in Buldhana district, which has seen a large spike in the number of farmer deaths.
His suicide has come hot on the heels of the approaching Maharashtra Assembly Election, for which BJP-Shiv Sena and Congress-NCP have taken to the roads of forgotten Maharashtrian villages and towns to prove their mettle as potential leaders.
Talware, a farm labourer as clarified by the Inspector of Shegaon Gramin Police Station, killed himself over unascertainable reasons.
Wearing BJP’s promotional t-shirt that read “Punha Aanuya Aaple Sarkar” (let’s bring our government to power again), he had hung himself on a tree, in a farm site situated near his dwelling. His area of residency falls under the Jalgaon Assembly seat currently held by BJP MLA Sanjay Kutte.
Native to Khatkhed, Raju of the Beldar caste which is historically a nomadic tribe, was a daily-wage farm labourer who had no fixed employer and took up tasks and errands for different people. As a ‘part-time’ BJP worker, he would occasionally carry out a few menial assignments allotted to him by the party’s office in the village.
The media and investigating officers have had their own versions of the incident.
Talware is supposed to have committed suicide over outstanding loans worth Rs. 2 lakhs, as per an unnamed police official’s quote to PTI but speaking with The Logical Indian, investigating officer for the case, Constable Bagade, asserted that he didn’t commit suicide because of debts but over a squabble with his wife. Bagade has been the only official working on this case with intermittent guidance from Inspector Suryanwanshi of Shegaon Gramin Police Station. “He neither had any land in his name nor loan credibility and therefore he was not under any debt”, the Constable declared.
As per him, Talware’s wife was complaining of an acute stomach ache for several days. She was requesting him to take her to the closest hospital for a check-up and “sonography”. Her husband, short of finances kept delaying the task until 13th October when he finally hung himself over ‘family problems’.
In the official’s version of the story, ‘fish’ have a role to play. Apparently, Talware had procured some fresh fish from a neighbouring village located three km away from his own. He produced his catch to his wife and asked her to prepare fish curry for that day’s meals but on her refusal based on pent up anger due to his negligence over her medical condition, he engaged her in a heated argument and left his house around 8:30 am.
A whole three hours later, at 11:30 am he was found dead, wearing the t-shirt that the official claimed was given to him by Rajesh Narayan who works as the head of the BJP’s yuva morcha for that region. The police informed us that Talware was in regular contact with Rajesh and was invited to a campaign rally taking place that day near their village.
However, when The Logical Indian contacted Rajesh, he outrightly denied being in frequent touch with the deceased man and established in the first few minutes of the conversation that Raju Gyandare Talware was just a ‘worker’ who would be used as a part of the crowd that ‘fills up vehicles’ in campaign rallies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Jalgaon that day to address one such rally and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was scheduled to address three election rallies in Buldhana district ahead of Assembly polls on October 21.
According to the Constable, the farm labourer after having fought with his family left for participating in those rallies wearing the BJP t-shirt given to him by Rajesh.
Interestingly, a full-time BJP worker and youth leader himself, Rajesh said that no rally was organised in his district, contradicting Constable Bagade and the actual fact that an election rally did take place in Warwat Bakal, 17 km away from Khatkhed.
In the recent record of speeches delivered for the assembly polls this year, farmer suicides have surfaced as a fundamental issue. The incumbent BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has refused to take responsibility for the 12,021 deaths reported between 2015 to 2018.
According to a report by The Times Of India, Buldhana ranked third among the six most affected districts in the eastern region of Vidharbha with over 315 farmer suicides.
Shiv Sena farmers’ leader Kishore Tiwari warned that Talware’s death was indicative of an “extremely grave” situation and urged all parties to take serious note of the stress disturbing the state’s farmlands.
“Such symbolic suicides point to a very deep-rooted catastrophe confronting the peasantry. Unless concrete measures are taken by the next government that comes to power, it will go out of hand,” Tiwari told IANS.
For reasons such as unrepayable bank loans and crop failure, an average of eight farmer suicides per day were reported from Maharashtra between 2014 and 2018.
The recent suicide which was first reported to be due to debt and financial burden has now been recorded as suicide over an argument with the deceased’s wife, in every report filed in the police station.
Constable Bagade told The Logical Indian that he did all the official filings for this case but an FIR has not been registered. He told us that this suicide has been dealt in the way that “such cases are usually handled”. The post mortem report was completed on the evening of the 13th of October and the reason for death has been mentioned as “asphyxiation due to extreme pressure on the neck”.
When we asked for the contacts of Talware’s parents and wife, the Inspector and the Constable told us that they were living in extreme financial deprivation and did not own any phones or mobile sets.
There was no clarity given over the failure and denial to file a First Information Report and due to our inability to reach Talware’s actual family for their version of his story, the reality of this suicide remains mixed up in grey areas smudged with opposing quotes and reports.