Sikh preacher who died by suicide near Singhu border cremated; Hooda, SGPC chief pay last respects

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Karnal (Haryana), Dec 18 (PTI) The mortal remains of Sikh preacher Sant Ram Singh, who was supporting the protest against the farm laws and allegedly committed suicide near the Singhu border unable to bear the 'pain of farmers', were consigned to flames here on Friday.

A large number of his followers from various walks of life, including politicians, religious gurus and farmer leaders, reached Singhra village here to attend the last rites.

Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, his son and Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Bibi Jagir Kaur and Bhartaiya Kisan Union Haryana chief Gurnam Singh were among them.

On Thursday, Akali leaders and a large number of followers of the Sikh preacher paid their last respects to him at his gurdwara in Karnal.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar termed the 65-year-old preacher's death 'an irreparable loss'. Khattar's Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh also expressed grief over his demise.

Sant Ram Singh's body was on Wednesday night taken to the Nanaksar Gurdwara in Singhra village, where a large number of his followers had gathered.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee chief and SAD leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa, Haryana Congress president Kumari Selja visited the gurdwara on Thursday to pay their last respects.

According to the police, Sant Ram Singh allegedly died by suicide near Delhi's Singhu border on Wednesday.

A handwritten note in Punjabi, purportedly left behind by the deceased, said he was unable to bear the 'pain of farmers' who have been protesting against the Centre's agriculture reform laws. The police had earlier said they were verifying the note.

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and other states have been protesting near Delhi's borders for over three weeks, demanding that the Centre's new farm laws be repealed.

Many recalled that Sant Ram Singh dedicated his life to serving humanity and used to organise 'satsangs (prayer meetings)' and 'langars (community kitchen)' for thousands of people.

The Haryana BKU chief said Sant Ram Singh was deeply hurt to see the pain and sufferings of thousands of farmers, who are braving the cold on the roads for the past several days to demand the withdrawal of the 'anti-farmer laws'.

Talking to reporters after attending the preacher's cremation, Hooda reiterated that the Centre should immediately accept the demands of the farmers.

Earlier, Congress leader Selja alleged the Centre is 'insensitive' towards the plight of the farmers.

'The government should accept the demands of the farmers, who have been sitting on roads for several days,' she said.

Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price (MSP) and do away with mandis that ensure income, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. PTI SUN VSD IJT IJT