American man burns himself to death in India

January 27, 2011 7:53:51 AM PST
An American man has died after setting himself on fire in an abandoned Buddhist center in northwestern India, leaving a cryptic suicide note that blamed his death on "cruel incidents" in his homeland and India, police said Thursday. The charred body of Jeff Canabel, a 72-year-old Californian, was found by villagers at a meditation site in Rajasthan state, said Mohan Singh, a superintendent of police.

North Africa and the Middle East have seen a series of self-immolations since a Tunisian man burned himself last month, triggering a popular uprising that deposed the government there. Self-immolation has also been used by Buddhists as a form of protest -- most notably by monk Thich Quang Duc, who sets himself ablaze on a Saigon street became an iconic image of protest against the Vietnam War.

Canabel's note, however, did not reference Tunisia. "I am killing myself because of cruel incidents in both the U.S. and in India," he wrote, according to police.

The note contained a request that only police handle his body and instructions that the 45,000 rupees ($1,000) in his bag be given to the poor. It did not explain his motivations further.

Canabel had been living in India for the past five years, and police said he had recently been visiting villages in the Rajasthan to talk to people about the teachings of India's independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi. He reached the Buddhist center -- in Virat Nagar, a town 90 miles (150 kilometers) north of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan -- three days ago, police said.

Police have informed the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi of Canabel's death, Singh said. A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy did not have immediate comment late Thursday night.

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