Protests in Gujarat after Dalit activist, who set himself on fire, dies

Bhanubhai Vankar had set himself on fire on Thursday inside the compound of Patan Collector`s office.

Protests in Gujarat after Dalit activist, who set himself on fire, dies
File photo

Ahmedabad: The tragic death of a 60-year-old Dalit activist, who had set himself on fire in Gujarat over government’s alleged failure to regularize land tilled by a landless labourer, triggered protests in Gujarat.

Bhanubhai Vankars had succumbed to his burn injuries late on Friday.

Bhanubhai Vankar had set himself on fire on Thursday inside the compound of Patan Collector`s office.

He was rushed to a local hospital before being moved to the Apollo Hospital in Ahmedabad.

State's Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said earlier that the government officials were taking full care of Vankar. 

He said the government would bear all the expenses the Dalit activist's treatment.

"We are receiving messages from many supporters across the state that they are frustrated and would resort to suicide. I request all of them not to take any such steps and instead go on an indefinite dharna (protest).

"I would request them to approach me and we will carry forward the fight," Jignesh Mevani, MLA from Vadgam constituency and a Dalit youth leader told reporters on reaching the hospital where Vankar died.

Vankar had been seeking physical possession of the land that was allotted to Dalit families by the state government.

He had written a letter to the Chief Minister last month, warning him of taking the step of self-immolation if the families were not allotted the land. 

Though the Chief Minister`s Office had sent in an advisory to the collectorate, the officials there allegedly took the matter casually.

Vankar reached the Collector`s office along with the Dalit families of Hemaben and Ramabhai on Thursday, drenched himself in kerosene and set himself on fire.

After his death, Vankar's kin refused to accept his body after it was brought for post-mortem to the Gandhinagar civil hospital.

Hundreds of Dalit protesters gathered outside the hospital to support the family which was demanding the setting up of a Special Investigation Team to probe the matter and re-granting of land which had been allotted to Dalits across the state but whose ownership titles had not been regularised.

Talking to reporters, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said the land in question would be transferred in the name of the family member.

"We will also constitute a judicial commission under a retired high court judge or form a SIT for investigation, as per the decision of the family, and we will take strict action against those responsible," Patel said.

"A member of the family will be given a government job, and the family will be given Rs 8 lakh as per the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, out of which Rs 4 lakh will be handed over immediately," Patel told reporters.

"The government will, at the earliest, also regrant land which was allotted to beneficiaries across the state but were been given the titles of the land," he added.

The body of Vankar last rites will be performed in Unjha in Mehsana district.

(With Agency inputs)