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Three yrs on,struggle continues for man who attempted self-immolation

It’s only when he removes his shirt that wounds which refuse to heal reveal themselves. It’s almost been three years since Rajneesh Kumar Sant set himself alight to protest against the apathy shown by authorities after his wife and children were allegedly kidnapped.

Written by Chinki Sinha | New Delhi |
March 18, 2009 12:19:46 am

It’s only when he removes his shirt that wounds which refuse to heal reveal themselves. It’s almost been three years since Rajneesh Kumar Sant set himself alight to protest against the apathy shown by authorities after his wife and children were allegedly kidnapped.

He stares at a spot next to the peepal tree where he had set himself on fire on March 29,2006,and recalls how he had given up hope at that point. Sant,a native of Etah in UP,says he was angry and sad and dejected then.

He has regained some of his spirit now,he says. “I want to struggle and bring to book the people who kidnapped my family,” Sant says. “Maybe they are alive,maybe I will see them again.”

In 2004,his wife Ritu Singh and three children were kidnapped by his maternal uncle,who had plotted with his daughter and Sant’s father but only two people have been booked so far,Sant alleges. “The others are still at large and the police never registered a case of kidnapping as far as my children are concerned,” he says.

It was a family dispute over land that had led to the kidnappings. Sant alleges he was shot at in 1992 as well,the year he got married. Bullet-marks are visible on the side of his belly; one bullet grazed his hand.

A photographer who captured the moment an assistant sub-inspector foiled Sant’s self-immolation bid at Jantar Mantar by hugging him to put out the flames won an award for his work. The photo,enlarged,still hangs on the wall. ASI Kamal Singh,who hugged Sant,suffered 20 per cent burns,while Sant suffered 40 per cent burns.

After he had attempted immolation,he was jailed for trying to kill himself. After he was released,he came back to the protest street looking for justice.

When he last saw his family,Julie,his daughter,was 11. She is 16 now.

Sant is 38 now and has spent much time trying to plead with authorities to register a case with the local police.

With no money,he has managed to survive with the help of a woman who brings him food and takes care of him. He has also developed infections on his body,which he does not have the money to get treated.

Vishaldeshi,a resident of Narela,saw Sant on TV and was overwhelmed. Now she comes every day to the makeshift jhuggi where Sant is sitting on a dharna and spends time with him.

“I don’t know but something makes me come here and bring him food,” she says.

For Sant,it has been a nightmare. Often he feels like giving it all up,he says. “But who knows maybe I can see my family again,” he says. “I have to keep fighting.”

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