Tempers rise over death of dalit activist

Govt forms SIT to probe self-immolation incident

Tempers rise over death of dalit activist

Tempers flared up in Gujarat on Saturday over the death of Dalit activist Bhanubhai Vankar, who had set himself on fire protesting the delay in physical possession of land allotted to Dalit families in Patan district.

Bhanubhai had been seeking the possession of land allotted by the state government to the Dalit families.

After arriving at the Patan collector's office along with the Dalit family of Hemaben and Ramabhai on Thursday, Bhanubhai attempted self-immolation. He was admitted to Apollo Hospital, where he succumbed to his burn injuries on Friday night.

This led to a series of protests by the Dalit activists across the state, including Gandhinagar, Unjha, Chanasma and Patan in North Gujarat and Morbi in Saurashtra, with many resorting to burning tyres and blocking traffic.

Bhanubhai's family refused to accept the body, putting forth a charter of seven demands before the state government.

Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani, Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani, Patidaar leader Hardik Patel and OBC leader and Radhanpur MLA Alpesh Thakor called on the family at the hospital.

The crowd at Gandhinagar hospital even heckled the BJP MLA from Kadi Karsan Solanki, who came to meet Bhanubhai's family.

The state government on its part swung into action and sent in a delegation of Gandhinagar district collector, Inspector General of Police and Social Empowerment secretary to talk to the Dalit activists and Bhanubhai's family. The meeting that lasted for over five hours failed to break the deadlock.

Though the state government claimed to have accepted the key demands of the family, the Dalit activists continued to seek government assurance in writing.

Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel said that the state government has agreed to all the major demands of Bhanubahi's family. "We would legally transfer the land in the name of the family member, they will be given Rs 8 lakh as per the provisions under The Atrocities Act, transfer his family members, who are government employees, to one location and set up a commission headed by retired high court judge or form a SIT to probe the incident," he said.

Meanwhile, Mevani and his supporters blocked the SG Highway. "The chief minister has become shameless. Vijay Rupani drown yourself in the Narmada. Why don't you die of shame? This is not your father's Gujarat," he said.

Mevani also appealed to Hardik and Alpesh to join him in intensifying the stir in the state from Sunday. "The chief secretary must bring out a notification to initiate a similar process for landless Dalits across 33 districts of the state. Till then we would continue our fight," Mevani added.

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