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‘No enmity, no debt, so what gave?’ Punjab AAP worker’s family grapples for clues after suicide

Ajaypal Singh Gill, 62, was found hanging days after he was made chair of Machhiwara Agricultural Co-operative Development Bank. Police say he left behind no suicide note.

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Machhiwara: Sitting on a chair outside the room where her husband allegedly hanged himself using her shawl, Baljeet Kaur stares into space.

She tries to think of the possible reasons that could have led him to take such a step, but repeatedly draws a blank.

Ajaypal Singh Gill, 62, a former medical practitioner and an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) worker, was found hanging at his home in Machhiwara, Ludhiana, on 25 June.

His death came just two days after he had been named the chairman of the Machhiwara Agricultural Co-operative Development Bank.

According to the police, Gill hanged himself inside his bedroom and did not leave behind a suicide note. The last three calls he received on his phone were from his wife, and there were no messages to suggest that he was under threat or pressure from anyone, members of his family told ThePrint.

No foul play is suspected either since the room where Gill was found was locked from the inside, his autopsy report has concluded death by hanging without any external injuries, and his family does not suspect anyone’s involvement, a senior officer who carried out the initial investigation in the case said.

Gill’s devastated widow said the questions were driving her “crazy”. “I just can’t understand why he would do this.”

Gill is survived by his wife and three children. One of his daughters lives in Pune, another in Dubai, and his son in New Zealand.

Police sources suggested Gill might have been upset about his family wanting him to leave politics. His family members admitted they weren’t enthusiastic about his political activities, but said they had “just mentioned it to him a couple of times”. There hadn’t even been an argument or altercation regarding this, they added.

The night before he was found dead, they said, Gill had even declared he would quit politics. However, they added that he seemed irritated about this rather than angry or depressed.

Gill’s fellow party workers told ThePrint that he had been “elated” about becoming chairman of the Machhiwara Agricultural Co-operative Development Bank and was “looking forward to the tenure”.

Harwinder Singh Khaira, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Samrala, told ThePrint that since the family does not suspect anyone’s involvement in his death — and since the initial investigation had not thrown up any clues that may indicate foul play — the inquiry will be completed soon.

“An inquiry under Section 174 [of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a section dealing with suicide] has been initiated and, after the statement of the family members, it will be concluded with their consent,” said DSP Khaira.

“It is established that it was a suicide but what made him take the step is not known. He had no enmity with anyone, didn’t have any debts to pay, nor had he had any altercations with anyone recently,” he added.

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Who was Ajaypal Singh Gill?

Born in Machhiwara, Gill got a Bachelor’s degree in medical sciences from Palampur and practised at a clinic in Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia for over 20 years. He eventually returned to his ancestral home and opened a medical shop at a local hospital in the area, where he worked till 2018.

Gill also started a local hockey team in Machhiwara and would train children in his free time, his family said.

His association with the AAP began in 2017 when he convinced his wife to contest the municipal corporation election from Machhiwara. Although she lost, Gill started actively participating in party work and was also part of the farmers’ protest in 2020-2021, according to the family.

On a typical morning, Gill was known to wake up by 6 am, take his dog out for a walk, buy fresh fruits and milk on his way back home, and make tea for his wife. On 25 June, though, his wife said she woke up to the dog barking.

“When I heard the dog barking at 7.30 am, I wondered how he [Gill] was still sleeping. My [eldest] daughter and I were asleep in the adjacent room, so I got up and went to his room to check, but the door was locked from inside. When he had gone in to sleep at night, the door was ajar, but he may have shut it in the middle of the night,” Baljeet Kaur said.

“I knocked several times but there was no response, so I panicked. That is when I went to the other room and tried to peep in through the common window,” she said.

Looking in through the gap between the drawn curtains, she added, she saw her husband hanging from the ceiling fan.

“I was shocked. I was not wearing my glasses, so I asked my daughter to check if what I had seen was real, but she was too scared to look,” she added.

“I did not know whom to call or even how, since I do not have a phone and my husband’s phone, which I would use to make all calls, was inside the room. I had no numbers. I then asked my daughter to message a family friend on Facebook and ask him to come to our house,” she said.

According to the family, they did not open the door until the police arrived.

When the police broke open the door, they found Singh hanging. There was no suicide note, just some clothes and his phone lying around.

“We told the police to check everything and search the premises well. We even gave them Gill’s phone, hoping that we would get some clue as to why he did this,” said Ranjeet Singh, the friend Gill’s family sought help from.

“It was beyond shocking for everyone. We never expected this. What makes it even more shocking is that he had no reason to kill himself,” he added.

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‘Stay away from politics’

On the night Gill allegedly hanged himself, he had returned home late after a full day of canvassing with AAP workers for an upcoming cooperative society election, ThePrint learnt.

His family said Baljeet Kaur had asked him to come home early that day since their pregnant daughter was visiting them and Gill was supposed to pick up fruits and milk on his way back. Although he came home late, he showed up with the promised groceries and, according to Kaur, behaved “normally”.

He is, however, said to have got irked when Kaur asked him to not get “too involved in politics”. He used a “cuss word” and said, “Main istifaa de dena hai (I will quit)”, his family said. This, however, was not taken seriously by them as there was no fight, the family added.

“We had been telling him to stay away from politics and politicians. That day, too, since he came home late, my mother mentioned that he shouldn’t get too involved. Although he did not get angry at that, he was a little irritated and said that he would quit soon,” Gill’s younger daughter Amrita said.

“He then went to his room. There was no fight or any argument about this really that may have got him this upset,” she added.

Gurkirat Singh, Gill’s son, said the family was not “very comfortable” with his association with politics and politicians, and had told him that it was not “meant for him”.

“We were sceptical about how he had been elevated to the post of the chairman just like that. He wasn’t even that involved in party work. Also, I wanted my parents to come and settle down in New Zealand with me and did not want my father getting involved in politics. It has never done anyone any good,” he said.

“I do not know if his death has something to do with his politics or there was some pressure. We will never know,” he added.

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‘Looking for answers’

Speaking to ThePrint, Jagtar Singh Dayalpura, the AAP MLA from Samrala, said Gill’s death is a setback to the organisation.

“He had been named the chairman [of the Machhiwara Agricultural Co-operative Development Bank] just a few days ago and was extremely happy. It is very unfortunate what happened and it has shocked each one of us,” he added.

“The day he hanged himself, he had been with us all day, canvassing for the party. We had gone together from village to village, but he did not show any sign of being upset or depressed.”

Sukhwinder Singh Gill, another AAP worker, said Gill could not believe he had been selected for the position of chairman. “He told me that his legs were shaking with excitement. I told him that day that he must give us a party and we laughed. It is unbelievable that he killed himself,” he said.

For Gill’s wife and his children, his death has left a void. There are “no suspects, no one to complain about”, they said, only “questions”.

“He did not have any enemies, there was no fight. We did not have debts, there was no financial crunch, so why? He worked so hard all his life, he made sure all his children got a good education and good jobs,” Amrita said. “Now was the time to relax, to retire. Why would he do this?”

Gurkirat added, “He has left us with so many unanswered questions.”

“If we knew why this happened, at least we would have some peace,” he said. “Now this will haunt us forever.”

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

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