A 28-year old auto-rickshaw driver set himself on fire in protest against the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh to lay the foundation for an international Buddhist university. He has been admitted to the Salem Government Medical College Hospital with serious burns.

Hospital sources told The Hindu that T. P. Vijayaraj had received nearly 80 per cent burns all over his body since he had drenched himself from shoulders to feet in petrol before setting himself ablaze near the busy Old Bus Stand on Monday morning, catching everyone including solitary police constable on routine duty and scores of vegetable vendors and general public, off-guard.

The youth from Nethimedu, who possessed a CITU membership card, also raised slogans against the Sri Lankan President and a few Indian political parties before the people could put out the fire. They called 108 emergency ambulance services and rushed him to the hospital. Salem Judicial Magistrate No.1 Rafiq recorded his statement from the hospital bed.

His father Thangavelu, also an auto-rickshaw driver, said his son appeared disturbed since Saturday. A school drop-out, he preferred to stay alone and rarely ventured out of the house. “Despite our repeated prodding, he preferred not to talk to us. He wrote a 38-page “last letter” to all saying that he was pained to hear about the killing of innocent Tamils in Sri Lanka and Rajapaksa’s visit to India. The letter has been seized by police,” he added.

Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam president Kolathur T.S. Mani, Pattali Makkal Katchi leader and youth wing secretary Anbumani Ramadoss, Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam urban secretary Radhakrishnan and a host of others visited him at the hospital. Traffic remained disrupted for 30 minutes when the cadre of the Salem unit of VCK resorted to road blockade near Collectorate demanding that police register cases based on his statement from hospital bed. Students of a private law college staged a dharna on the hospital premises and raised slogans against the Sri Lankan President.

The Town Police have registered a case.