Gujarat Dalit activist, who set himself ablaze, succumbs to burn injuries

first_imgDalit activist Bhanu Vankar, who attempted self-immolation in Gujarat on February 15, succumbed to severe burn injuries late on February 16. Mr. Vankar has sustained 80% burn injuries and was admitted in Ahmedabad’s Apollo Hospital, where he died. To protest the Patan district administration’s failure to regularise a piece of land he was allotted a few years ago, he set himself on fire in the Collector Office in North Gujarat. Despite repeated visits to the district administration officials, his case did not move, which apparently distressed him to take an extreme step of ending his life. His suicide is likely to trigger Statewide protests by the Dalit community and organisations working for the rights of Dalits and other marginalised sections in the State. “We have lost him. We hold the district administration responsible for his death. He was forced,” a relative said. Earlier in the day, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani ordered inquiry into the incident. “I have asked Chief Secretary to get all details of the incident after an inquiry,” Mr. Rupani said, adding, “the State government will also bear all medical expenses of Mr. Vankar, who is presently under treatment in Apollo hospital in Ahmedabad.”Moreover, nine other Dalit men were detained by the police after they also tried to storm into the premises of the collectorate with the intention to commit suicide, and were later released. “As many as nine people were detained briefly after they tried to storm into the office of the collector with the intention to commit suicide. They had expressed their intention to the Collector on a previous date and police were deployed in large numbers to prevent any such attempt,” a police official from Patan said. “However, Banubhai Vankar from Unjha village managed to enter the Collector Office premises by jumping over the barricade and set himself on fire. He has been shifted to a hospital in Ahmedabad,” the official had said.The incident triggered a huge backlash among the Dalit community in the State. A leading organisation Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, fighting for the rights of Dalits, gave a call for Patan bandh on February 16 to protest against the “administrative negligence” in the transfer of land to Dalits, “which forced a group to attempt suicide”. The bandh evoked mixed response in the North Gujarat town.A prominent activist and Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani, who is also the convener of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, in a statement said it was a “matter of shame” for the BJP government that Dalits had to resort to extreme steps to fight for their rights in Gujarat.Mr. Mevani demanded suspension of the Collector and Superintendent of Police holding them responsible for driving the community members to take extreme steps to press for their rights.last_img