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Dalit self-immolation: Gujarat govt accepts demands, allots land to family

The Gujarat government has ordered a probe into the death of a Dalit activist who had warned of self-immolation before carrying out the threat on Thursday.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2018 22:44 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Gujarat,Dalit activist,Bhanubhai Vankar
Dalits blocked the vital national highway 8 connecting north Gujarat to Rajasthan in protest from Saturday morning.(Representational purpose )

The Gujarat government decided on Saturday evening to allot land to a Dalit family after a former revenue officer’s death in protest against alleged administrative delay in the case sparked road blockades and demonstrations.

Bhanubhai Vankar died of burn injuries late on Friday, a day after setting himself ablaze in front of the district magistrate’s office in north Gujarat’s Patan. He was protesting against the district administration’s alleged stonewalling of an application by Hema Vankar to get a parcel of land, which she cultivates, sanctioned in her name. Bhanubhai and Hemabhai aren’t related.

“The government has decided to allot the said piece of land to the family of Hemaben Vankar for which Bhanubhai sacrificed his life,” deputy CM Nitin Patel said, hours after Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani threatened protests over the issue. He also promised a drive to allot land in similar cases, where cultivating families have encroached upon confiscated land.

“As per the wish of Bhanubhai’s family, either a special investigation team or an inquiry commission led by retired judge will be formed to investigate the self-immolation incident and action will be taken against those responsible,’’ Patel added. He also announced compensation of ₹8 lakh and promised to arrange transfers so that Bhanubhai’s son and wife — both of whom hold government jobs — can live in the same place. The announcement came after Bhanubhai’s family refused to take the body and demanded action against government officials as Dalits blocked National Highway 8 connecting north Gujarat to Rajasthan for almost 10 hours.

“The issue (of land) is our constitutional right. We have been raising it for a while now and Bhanubhai sacrificed his life for the same. The community wants the government to act swiftly,” said Mevani at Gandhinagar civil hospital, where Bhanubhai died.

This is the first time Dalits protested on the streets after the Una agitations of 2016, when the flogging of four scheduled caste men by alleged cow vigilantes sparked statewide demonstrations. The issue is also expected to dominate the assembly’s budget session, which begins on Monday.

“It is unfortunate that after so many years of independence, an activist had to sacrifice his life. The matter will be raised in the assembly,” said Radhanpur Congress MLA and OBC leader Alpesh Thakor.

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 22:43 IST