Family members of Dalit activist Bhanubhai Vankar today took possession of his body after the Gujarat government gave a written assurance to accept their demands, including allotment of land to Dalits. Vankar, 62, had set himself ablaze outside the Patan Collector's office on February 15 seeking allotment of land to a Dalit family. He died of burn injuries at a private hospital in Ahmedabad the next day. The body was taken to Vankar's hometown Unjha in Mehasana district, where his last rites will be performed later today, Subodh Parmar of the Dalit Adhikar Manch said. "Possession of land already allocated to Dalit community members will be handed over in the next six months," reads the letter signed by Gandhinagar District Collector Satish Patel and Superintendent of Police Virendra Yadav. As per the letter, a copy of which was accessed by PTI, a Special Investigation Team will be formed to probe the circumstances which led to Vankar's death. Dalit leaders and community members have been protesting since Friday, when Vankar died. Yesterday, protesters had blocked roads and held rallies in several parts of Gujarat, including capital Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, and Patan in Mehsana district against the failure of authorities concerned to prevent suicide by Vankar on Friday, police had said. Dalit leader and Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani, and more than 70 others were also detained by police yesterday. Though the state government had announced that it will accept the key demands of Vankar's family, including allotment of land to Dalits, Mevani had sought that the government issue a circular conceding the demands. Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel had announced the constitution of a judicial commission under a retired high court judge or to form an SIT to investigate Vankar's death. Patel had also said that a member of the family of the deceased will be given a government job.
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