A Dalit activist and retired revenue clerk in Gujarat died on Friday, a day after he attempted to immolate himself outside the Patan collector’s office to protest against the alleged delay in allotment of land by the government. Apollo Hospitals’ Public Relation Officer Sandip Joshi said Bhanu Vankar succumbed to his burn injuries around 10 pm on Friday, reported The Indian Express.
Dalits in Dudhka village of Patan district have been demanding allotment of land for the past three years under a government scheme. Some of them have even deposited money with the government.
On January 17, Vankar and Dalit activists Hema Vankar and Rama Chamar had submitted a letter to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, threatening to perform agnisnan (fire bath) if land is not allotted to Dalits at the village. On Thursday, the police had detained nine Dalit men after they tried to enter the collectorate, reported The Hindu. They were later released.
The Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch has threatened to block the Ahmedabad-Mehsana highway if those involved in the “murder of Vankar” were not identified by 4 pm on Saturday. Vankar was member of the RDAM.
On Friday, RDAM Convener and Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani demanded that a special investigating team be formed to look into the matter. “We are asking for our right to land and it is time that the government understood the real issue,” he had said.
Chief Minister Rupani has ordered an investigation into the incident. “The chief secretary of Gujarat will be responsible for the entire investigation,” the chief minister’s officer said in a press release. “The CM has told that the government will ensure that once the details of the investigations are out, steps will be taken against those responsible for such an event.”
The Patan Police have filed an FIR against unidentified people after Congress MLAs Alpesh Thakor, Shailesh Parmar, Naushad Solanki, Chandansih Thakor and Kirit Patel had a meeting with the collector and the superintendent of police. “The FIR is filed under abetment of suicide and various sections of the Atrocity Act,” said Patan Superintendent of Police Ashwin Chauhan.
Thakor said they will bring up the matter in the Vidan Sabha. “While the collector has assured us that the process of land allotment will start within a week, there has been no assurance by the government,” he told The Indian Express. “Why is there no official statement as yet? This is a big issue and we will bring it up in the Vidhan Sabha.”