Chandigarh, Dec 17 (PTI) Akali leaders and a large number of followers of Sikh preacher Sant Ram Singh, who apparently committed suicide because he was unable to bear the 'pain of farmers', paid their last respects to him at his gurdwara in Karnal on Thursday.
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 Sant Ram Singh's death.
Sant Ram Singh's body was on Wednesday night taken to the Nanaksar Gurdwara in Karnal's Singhra village, where a large number of his followers had gathered. The cremation will take place on Friday.
A number of political leaders including 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 also visited the gurdwara to pay their last respects.
According to 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 note is being verified by the police.
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states have been protesting near Delhi's borders for over three weeks, demanding that the Centre's new farm laws be repealed.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.
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', Haryana Bharatiya Kisan Union chief Gurnam Singh told reporters as he struggled to control his tears.
Opposition leaders alleged the Centre was being 'cruel' and 'insensitive' to its people and demanded that the farmers' demands be immediately accepted.
'Paid tributes and had 'antim darshan' of Sant Baba Ram Singh Ji Nananksar Singhra Karnal Wale. Sant ji sacrificed his life in support of the agitating farmers who are suffering on roads to get their rights,' Sukhbir Badal tweeted.
Interacting with reporters in Karnal, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should immediately accept farmers' demand for the repeal of the farm laws.
'Farmers have a small demand, but the country's prime minister is not ready to accept it. The PM should immediately accept their demands. He should at least understand the sentiments when saintly people like Sant ji are giving up their lives,' he said.
'I am surprised and saddened that the government is still not moved. Within three weeks nearly 30 farmers have died but the Centre is not concerned,' he added.
SAD MP from Bathinda Harsimrat Kaur Badal asked how a government can be 'so cruel towards its own people?' 'Farmers are only asking for their rights,' she said.
Congress leader Selja alleged the Centre is 'insensitive' towards the plight of farmers.
'The government should accept the demands of farmers, who have been sitting on roads for several days,' she said.
Taking to Twitter, Chief Minister Khattar said Sant Ram Singh's death is 'a moment of great sorrow'.
He said the real tribute to Singh would be to walk the path of human welfare shown by him.
His Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh tweeted, 'Extremely shocked and saddened on learning the tragic news of Sant Ram Singh ji of Nanaksar Singhra wale from Karnal ending his life at Singhu Border in protest against the Centre's Farm Laws. My prayers are with his family and supporters in this time of grief.' 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 DIV DIV