LUCKNOW - An Indian politician hugged during a television election debate by a ‘human torch’ has died of burn injuries, the family said Saturday.
The politician died late Friday in hospital, his family told AFP, after suffering burns to 75 percent of his body when a member of the audience doused himself in petrol and grabbed him. The local leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Kamruzzama Fauji, and his attacker were engulfed in flames in front of the horrified audience as the television debate was being recorded for broadcast later.
India’s media had described the attacker as looking like a ‘human torch’. The attack occurred as India’s state-owned national TV channel Doordarshan was recording the debate for broadcast later. The programme was being recorded in a park in Sultanpur, a town 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Uttar Pradesh state capital Lucknow.
Fauji’s attacker, who suffered 95 percent burns, died shortly after the incident, police said. Police have not come up with any motive for the attack on the politician who was a father of nine children. But Khalikurzama, the elder brother of Kamruzzama, called the attack ‘politically motivated’ and demanded ‘a proper probe’. India’s numerous television channels are holding nightly debate shows during the nation’s marathon parliamentary election.
The debates are often staged in villages and towns with politicians taking questions in front of local voters. The election, the world’s biggest, will end May 16 with results expected to show the Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coming to power after 10 years of rule by the leftist Congress party.
The show Monday which featured five local politicians was just ending when the attack took place.
Two other local politicians on the show suffered minor burn injuries while trying to douse the flames engulfing the two other men. ‘This man suddenly came on the stage, poured petrol on himself and set himself on fire before tightly hugging one of the political guests,’ photographer Pankaj Kumar Gupta told AFP after the incident.