One dead as family of five set themselves on fire in India

Five people set themselves on fire in western India, leaving one man dead as they protested official plans to raze their home in a drive to remove illegal structures, police said on Wednesday.

The five people, including three women, belonged to the same family and turned up at a city government office in the western state of Gujarat carrying kerosene-filled containers around noon on Wednesday, local police said.

Ram Sinh, a police official based in Rajkot city, where the incident took place said the group came "to request the officials to stop demolition of illegal encroachments".

"But when their request was not granted they poured kerosene on themselves and set themselves on fire," Sinh told AFP.

Municipal officials in Rajkot, located 125 miles (200 kilometres) from state capital Ahmedabad had declared the family's home illegal and issued an order to tear down the structure, leaving them in a desperate state, Sinh said.

"The five have been identified as Rekha, Asha, Vasumati, Bharat and Girish .... Out of which Girish, who was 35-years-old succumbed to injuries in hospital," he said.

The burn victims sustained severe injuries and have been admitted to a local government hospital, where their condition is said to be stable, he added.

Rajkot municipal corporation commissioner Ajay Bhadoo told AFP authorities had launched a probe into the burnings.

"We are enquiring into the matter, into today's incident," he said.

Indian cities are home to tens of thousands of illegal buildings, with officials sporadically launching demolition drives to tear down allegedly unauthorised structures.

In the run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Delhi civic authorities evicted countless people from their homes as they razed thousands of slum dwellings in an attempt to beautify the city.