SANJIV BHATT: AN IPS OFFICER WITH A CONSCIENCE AND A SPINE
Everyone knows Sanjiv Bhatt, the intrepid Indian Police Service Officer who stood up to the most powerful in the nation, to tell India the truth about the post-Godhra riots. But standing up to powerful politicians, has had a heavy price to pay. He was first immobilized by a plethora of false cases. Then, he had to incessantly depose before various Commissions and Courts. Eventually he was removed from service on a concocted charge of ‘unauthorized absent from duty’, for a period when he was actually deposing before the Nanavati Commission of Inquiry! A vicious Government removed him from service without pension or gratuity, despite his over 27 years of service, effectively rendering him without a salary, a monthly income or a nest-egg to fall back upon. Recently, the government also withdrew the meagre security cover that was provided to him and his family. As if that was not enough, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation got after Sanjiv’s house and demolished the Kitchen and Bathrooms of his family residence under the pretext of a brought up charge of unauthorized construction, even while his Writ Petition was pending before the Supreme Court.
Why Supporting IPS Sanjiv Bhatt Is Our Collective Responsibility…
India is currently passing through one of the darkest phases in its post-independence history. Time-tested democratic institutions are under threat of total and complete subversion at the hands of a totalitarian regime. The independence of the Media has become a distant memory. The spectre of a totalitarian fascist takeover is staring us in the face. Lynchings, rapes, murders, and staged encounters have become commonplace. All voices of dissent are sought to be silenced. The criminal justice system continues to implode under its own weight, while murderers and rapists roam free in society.
How did we come to this pass? Why is the police machinery unable to stand upright and perform their duty? Have the police let us down, or have we let the police down? The answer probably lies in the story of one upright IPS officer who continues to be wronged with brazen impudence; and how we, as a nation, let him down.
Meet IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, Ahmedabad Gujarat:
Sanjiv Bhatt is an alumnus of Hill Grange High School Mumbai, St. Xavier’s High School (Loyola Hall) Ahmedabad, and Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. He cleared the Union Public Service Commission Civil Services Examination with a very high rank and opted for the Indian Police Service in 1987/88 at the age of 23 and was allotted to the Gujarat Cadre. In 2002, he was posted as the Deputy Commissioner in-charge of Internal Security at the State Intelligence Bureau Gandhinagar, when the Godhra incident took place. With the possibility of retaliatory violence looming across the state, the police was gearing up to take control of the state’s law and order. But things were made to play out differently. Over the next one week, more than a 1000 people, mostly from one community, were murdered in cold blood across the state. While the world was shocked at the state police’s inability to control the predictable violence, most of the police officers chose to keep quiet and toe the line of the government of the day.
Sanjiv Bhatt was an exception. He, in keeping with his own track record, stood his ground against the flow and might of a complicit government and a pliant administrative machinery. He fearlessly carried out his duty by sending out timely advisories and reports from the Intelligence Bureau, ensuring effective intervention and action by the police at many places across the state of Gujarat. His contemporaneous reports and advisories have been presented before various commissions and courts as evidence of state complicity and administrative inaction during the Gujarat Carnage of 2002.
Sanjiv Bhatt was eventually cited as an important witness in the Complaint filed by Mrs. Zakia Jafri, the widow of slain MP Ehsaan Jafri, in 2006. The refusal of the Gujarat Police to treat this complaint as an FIR was challenged in the Supreme Court of India by Mrs. Zakia Ehsaan Jafri by way of SLP 1088 of 2008. Unmindful of the consequences, Sanjiv Bhatt not only deposed before the SIT that was inquiring into the Complaint filed by Mrs. Jafri, but also filed a detailed affidavit in the Supreme Court in order to expose the role of the state administrative machinery in the 2002 carnage; as well as the blatant attempts of the SIT at shielding the powerful accused persons including Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat.
The affidavit filed by Sanjiv Bhatt, before the Supreme court of India, clearly brought out the role of Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, in allegedly asking top police officials to let Hindus vent out their anger against one community. Sadly, the Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court of India dismissed his allegations and filed a Closure Report, giving a Clean Chit to Narendra Modi and other powerful functionaries of the state. This Closure Report is currently under challenge before the High Court of Gujarat and Sanjiv Bhatt continues to be an important witness to the role and function of the state administration in the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 and the subsequent cover-up machinations.
In addition to his affidavit before the Supreme Court, Sanjiv Bhatt has also extensively deposed on oath before the Justice Nanavati Commission, as well as the National Commission for Minorities. His depositions and affidavits before the Supreme Court, the Justice Nanavati Commission, and the National Commission for Minorities have brought out in great detail, irrefutable evidence of state complicity and administrative inaction during the Gujarat Carnage of 2002.
This act of speaking out the truth against some of the most powerful people in the country has since cost Sanjiv Bhatt and his family dearly. He had to face a flurry of concocted charges and was eventually removed from service in 2015, after an ex parte departmental inquiry, on the flimsy ground of “Unauthorised Absence From Duty” for a period when he was actually deposing before the Justice Nanavati Commission of Inquiry. He has been denied his rightful pension and other service benefits despite having served for 27 years in the Indian Police Service. Recently, the government also withdrew the meagre security cover that was provided to him and his family. Not stopping at this, the BJP controlled Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has demolished a large portion of his house, making it unfit and unusable until major repairs are undertaken. In complete disregard of judicial propriety, this demolition was carried out round-the-clock for one full week, despite the fact that his Writ Petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, challenging the illegal orders of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation was pending before the Supreme Court of India; thereby rendering the Writ Petition absolutely infructuous even before it could be taken up for hearing by the Supreme Court. The Writ Petition came up for hearing after the demolition was completed, and was dismissed as it was already rendered otiose by the actuality of the demolition which had already been carried out during the pendency of the Petition.
Sanjiv Bhatt has now become a living example of the price one pays for speaking out truth. He is also a warning and deterrent to other police officers, bureaucrats and witnesses.
So what can we do as citizens?
Unfortunate is the nation that needs heroes to speak out the truth. And doomed is the nation that cannot honour and protect its own heroes.
Jin chiragoN ko hawaOn ka koi khauf nahiN
Un chiragoN ko hawaOn se bachaya jaye. . .
The least we can do is to strive to protect our heroes from persecution at the hands of our own government. To start with, we need to participate in this crowd-funding campaign to provide Sanjiv Bhatt with the much needed financial relief. This will send out a message to the bureaucracy and the security establishment that the citizens will look after you if you do your job, if you speak the truth in face of power.
Sanjiv Bhatt and his family have chosen to remain unbroken in the face of the full might of the state, and continue to face the unabated retribution with their heads held high. As all of us know, he and his family are paying the price for speaking and upholding the truth despite all odds and difficulties. We, at Indians Fight For Justice (IFFJ), having gone through the affidavits filed before various Commissions and Courts, and also being subjectively satisfied about the veracity of facts contained in this appeal, have decided to unflinchingly support the cause of justice for Sanjiv Bhatt and his family.
The target amount is the least we can do to support such an upright police officer who has suffered physically emotionally financially and socially for nearly two decades.
Along with the stated laudable objective of expressing our solidarity with Sanjiv Bhatt and his family, we at IFFJ – an apolitical and non-profit group, comprising secular minded and dedicated legal practitioners, as well as other professionals, from diverse fields; wish to eventually avail the services of Sanjiv Bhatt and other such experienced and dedicated professionals to set up a countrywide legal help network that strives to selflessly secure justice for victims of any and all authoritarian repression.
The amount being raised by way of this campaign may be negligible as compared to even the actual financial losses he has had to bear, let alone all the hardships and insurmountable difficulties, he and his wife, Shweta have continued to endure for the last 16 years; yet it symbolises our solidarity with a national hero of our times. And this is the least we can do to support such an upright police officer who has suffered physically, emotionally, financially and socially for nearly two decades.
The funds that are being collected at our initiative for Sanjiv Bhatt will directly go to his account and shall be utilized by him for the following purposes:
1. Engage the services of private security for himself and his immediate family.
2. Fight cases in various Courts, including the High Court and Supreme Court of India.
3. Salvage and Repair whatever is left over from his shoddily demolished house.
4. Maintain his family expenses until the cases are decided and he is reinstated in the Indian Police Service, or the government compensates him for the injustice meted out to him and all his service benefits are restored.
5. Pay applicable taxes and fees on the funds collected.
No amount is big or small, every rupee matters. If a few hundred of us could come together and contribute, the entire nation will take note, including those in power. And this might stiffen the spine of a bureaucracy that not only seems to have lost its will to resist. All funds raised on this platform will be directly sent to the account of IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt.
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
Let us all resolve to fight and uproot fascism from our rainbow nation.
Links to Affidavits and other relevant documents: