Burning man grabs politician during live TV debate in India

Indian bystanders attempt to douse the blaze as a local politician and a man are engulfed in flames.

Story highlights

  • A man in India's Uttar Pradesh state set himself on fire and grabbed a politician
  • The man died from his burns; the politician is hospitalized in critical condition
  • The incident came as the country continues to vote in national elections

A man in India set himself on fire and then grabbed a politician during a live television debate this week in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, authorities said.

Police said Durgesh Kumar Singh came out of the crowd Monday as India's state-owned television station Doordarshan recorded the debate at a park in Sultanpur, about 100 miles from the city of Lucknow.

He set himself ablaze with gasoline and threw himself on Kamruzzama Fauji, a local politician from the Bahujan Samaj Party. Singh died in the hospital a day later. Fauji is in critical condition with burns over 80% of his body, police said.

"People were just too shocked to know what was happening," local photographer Pankaj Kumar Gupta told reporters.

The superintendent of police for Sultanpur district, Pratibha Ambedkar, was preparing for a visit by state Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav when she got a call from her office about a man threatening to set himself on fire. "By the time we reached there, he had already set himself ablaze," Ambedkar told CNN.

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Singh, 35, had previously worked at a flour mill in Amethi, a neighboring district.

His motives have yet to be confirmed, but authorities said the man's family claims he was being treated for mental instability. "Before the incident, the man also made a call to the local police control room complaining of harassment from his family," said Ambedkar.

India is in the midst of its nationwide parliamentary elections, which conclude May 12. During elections, several news channels often stage shows in villages and towns across the country, engaging politicians with local voters.

Voting in Uttar Pradesh, one of the country's most populous states, began Wednesday morning.

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