The vindictive agenda being pursued
by the Gujarat government is once again reflected in the arrest of
whistleblower police officer Sanjiv Bhatt. The 1988 batch IPS
officer has accused Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of
complicity in the 2002 communal riots.
Bhatt was arrested following a complaint filed by KD Pant, who
worked as a subordinate with Bhatt in the state Intelligence
Bureau. According to Pant's complaint, Bhatt had forced him to
file an affidavit in which Modi had been named as accused.
The specific reasons cited against Bhatt were unauthorized absence
of duty, non-appearance before a departmental panel and alleged
misuse of official vehicle.
The Narendra Modi government had ordered the suspension of Bhatt
on August 8, 2011 on the grounds that his conduct was unbecoming
of an IPS officer.
This was because Bhatt had handed over, about 600 pages of
documents to the Central Bureau of Investigation which could
incriminate several politicians, police officers and bureaucrats
for their active connivance in engineering the riots of 2002,
whose countless victims are still struggling for justice.
On September 27, 2011, Bhatt filed an affidavit in the Gujarat
High Court, alleging that Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the
former Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah had repeatedly sought
to pressurize him to withdraw his report and destroy the evidence
he had placed on record regarding the murder of former minister
Mr. Bhatt in the affidavit said; I was removed from the post of
Superintendent of Police in-charge of the Sabarmati central jail
and was kept without a posting for over two-and-a-half months for
not withdrawing my report the very important documentary evidences
regarding the role of certain highly placed State
functionaries/politicians and senior police officers in the
killing of Haren Pandya.
Earlier, a youth from Hyderabad was arrested on murder charges
with allegations that some riot victims had hired him to murder
Pandya, who is believed to have played an active role in the
communal program against the Muslims. The trial court had
acquitted the youth for lack of evidences.
As the Haren Pandya murder case remains unsolved, Mr. Bhatt's
claim of possessing documentary evidence that would point to his
killers is crucial piece of evidence to solve this murder mystery.
Bhatt had earlier courted the Modi administration's disapproval by
disclosing his presence at the meeting where Chief Minister
Narendra Modi directed law enforcement officers to "allow the
Hindus to vent their ire on the Muslims."
Although Modi's complicity in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom has been
documented by several independent human rights groups, this was
the first time a state functionary had come forward with direct
evidence of Modi's involvement in the pogroms of 2002 that
resulted in the massacre of 3000 Muslims.
Bhatt's affidavit in the Supreme Court has alleged that the 2002
riots took place with Modi's tacit approval. He had also accused
Modi of asking cops to ignore calls for help from Muslims during
the riots. He alleged that SIT probe details on riots cases were
leaked to a top law officer of the state government.
Against this backdrop, Sanjiv Bhatt's arrest by the Gujarat
government and the harassment of his family by repeated raids on
his home, amounts to a witch-hunt that raises dubious questions
about the government's motives.
Even social crusader Anna Hazare has come out in support of Sanjiv
Bhatt. Hazare castigating the move to arrest Bhatt has said; 'What
was the need for the state government to interfere and arrest
Bhatt when the Supreme Court was fully aware of the matter. What
Narendra Modi has done is wrong; It is not good for democracy in
The Gujarat government's alacrity in arresting Bhatt stands in
stark contrast to its criminal inaction against police officers
who have been charged with complicity in the riots. It is equally
remarkable that barely any arrests or convictions have happened in
over 2000 cases filed by the victims of the 2002 massacres.
The irony that some like Babu Bajrangi, Haresh Bhatt and Ramesh
Dave who have confessed killing hundreds of people in sting
operations, that was telecast to the entire nation, are still at
large. Whereas, whistleblower officers like Sanjiv Bhatt, Rahul
Sharma and R. B. Sreekumar and human rights activists Teesta
Setalvad and Shakeel Tirmizi have been subject to arrests and
intimidation on dubious charges.
This is not all, former Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, who
was arrested on charges of running extortion and a fake encounter
killing racket is currently out on bail. The fact that Amit Shah
was the Minister of State for a portfolio held by Modi himself,
and the Gujarat government's repeated but failed attempts to
protect him are clear evidences of the government's dubious role
towards law and order.
Added to it is the case of the former head of Gujarat ATS
(Anti-Terrorist Squad) D G Vanzara who is serving his time in jail
on charges of fake encounters. Vanzara's closeness to
Modi once made him the most powerful police official in the state.
Still more, Maya Kodnani, a former minister in the Modi government
was forced to resign after her arrest on charges of inciting and
arming a communal mob that slaughtered and burnt alive 98 Muslims
during the 2002 riots.
The fact is that Maya's mentor was Narendra Modi who kept her in
his cabinet until the findings of the Special Investigation Team
appointed by the Supreme Court made her a political liability.
It may be prudent that the CBI should conduct a full-scale
investigation into the allegations made by Mr. Sanjiv Bhatt
against Narendra Modi and other state functionaries. The probe
should be without any regard to the status and position of the
people he has implicated.
One hopes that despite the active subversion of justice and
intimidation of activists and whistleblowers by the state
government, the long arm of the law will catch up with the
perpetrators of the pogroms of 2002.
It is the Gujarat government's dismal record in upholding the rule
of law that should serve as a context in which Bhatt's arrest. It
is clearly part of a pattern of vendetta against whistle blowers
and human rights activists. The Gujarat government's sinister
pattern of complicity and deceit are apparent in the arrest of
Sanjiv Bhatt. It’s high time that the Gujarat government should
eschew the sectarian agenda that have marked Mr. Modi's 10 years
as Chief Minister. The Prime Minister in making has lots of wounds
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a
journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org