Monday, August 24, 2015

"The Midnight Knock!"by Fr Cedric Prakash (in INDIAN CURRENTS) August 24th 2015

The Midnight Knock!

The Midnight Knock!
Sanjiv Bhatt, the Gujarat State Police Officer who had the courage to take on NarendraModi over the 2002 riots was unceremoniously sacked from the services on August 19th 2015!  
A written Order served to him by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India dated August 13th 2015 signed by a Deputy Secretary cites indiscipline very particularly absenting himself from work without permission and that he “ Sanjiv Bhatt had remained defiant and flagrantly flouted the rules with complete disregard to discipline which should otherwise have been the hallmark of an officer of a uniformed force”. The Order served on him also says that he was given ample opportunity to present his side of the case but did not do so. Bhatt obviously has a different version of this; he immediately tweeted a response saying that he was removed on the basis of “ a sham inquiry and fabricated charges”.  
Sanjiv Bhatt’s claim to have been part of the midnight meeting of February 27th / 28th 2002 convened by the then Chief Minister NarendraModi was not accepted by the Government authorities and by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which was appointed by the Supreme Court to probe nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat Carnage. Bhatt however has remained adamant saying that he was there; besides he has also been very vocal and vociferous in alleging that NarendraModi was the architect of the Gujarat Carnage which killed almost 2000 Muslims and left thousands more brutalised and homeless. The fact remains that ever since he took on Modi and the power of the State, Bhatt has been at the receiving end of a vindictive Government and system which seems to have been all out to get him.
Sanjiv Bhatt has served the Indian Police force for 27 long years; he joined the Service in 1988 and was allotted the Gujarat cadre. In 1990, he was accused of torturing a person in police custody in the wake of some riots in Jamnagar district. The person died of kidney failure a little later; once again in 1998 he was accused of another custodial torture case. However, from both these cases, he emerged unscathed.
A high point in his career was being appointed as the Superintendent of the Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad. As Superintendent, he became extremely popular with the prisoners and worked towards prison reforms. But the Government and his other seniors really did not like this. In just over two months, he was transferred for apparently being “too friendly” with the prisoners.   This transfer resulted in a huge backlash within the prison. More than half of the 4000 plus prisoners went on a hunger strike protesting against his transfer; about six of them even slashed their wrists in open defiance against Sanjiv’s bosses; but they did not relent much to the dismay of the prisoners.
Sanjiv Bhatt has regularly courted controversy but has also shown himself as a tough cop. When the movie ‘Singham’ was released in 2011, many in Gujarat and elsewhere saw in “Inspector BajiraoSingham” a fair bit of Sanjiv Bhatt. Singham fights against injustice, prejudice and corruption using his own brand of ethics and justice; but was not afraid to take on the system.
Bhatt completed his schooling at St. Xavier’s Loyola Hall, Ahmedabad and in 1985 he obtained an MTech degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. In 1987, he married Shweta also from Ahmedabad. They have two children Akashi who is a young Doctor and will shortly be pursuing her higher studies in Oxford and Shantanu who is doing his architectural studies in Newcastle, UK. Another point which has hurt the establishment is that in the last Gujarat Assembly Elections in 2012 Shweta Bhatt stood against NarendraModi as a joint Opposition candidate. Modi of course won those elections convincingly.
Reacting to his dismissal, Sanjiv Bhatt posted on his facebook page and tweeted “ many friends have been asking me for my reaction on my removal from the Indian Police Service.   All I have to say is that, at the age of 24, with a passion and fire that still continues to rage in me, I chose the Indian Police Service because I saw it as a career that would add action and purpose to my life.   And I have not been disappointed one bit.   In fact, I have enjoyed every moment of the last 27 years in the IPS.   The Government of the day has decided to remove me from service after conducting a sham, ex parte inquiry on completely fabricated charges of ‘unauthorised absence from duty’.   Mind you, this so-called ‘unauthorised absence from duty’ pertains to the period when I was deposing before the SIT (investigating into the Zakia Jafri complaint) and the Nanavati commission (inquiring into the Gujarat riots). Be that as it may, the bottom-line is that if the Government of the day does not require my be it.   I pray to God that He may continue to kindle and stoke the passion and fire that has possessed me all these years.   May He continue to lead me in my just pursuits.
Whatever the merits or the demerits of Sanjiv Bhatt be, one thing quite transparent is that the Government has been all out to get him! This is evident from the fact that Sanjiv Bhatt was systematically denied his promotion to the rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP) when most of his batch-mates were promoted several years ago.
Bhatt has now emerged as another victim of the “midnight knock” which takes place so often when the powers just want to get rid of someone. But that knock has also meant that Sanjiv Bhatt has become yet another hero to the resistance that is gradually but surely emerging in the country.
When he heard of his father’s dismissal from the services, Shantanu who was in London wrote a moving tribute to his father which has since gone viral; he concludes his letter saying “ and lastly, I would like to congratulate you for getting freedom from the shackles of this rancorous government which tries to break and antagonise anyone who tries to speak up against them, or tries to stand up for what is right! In this new chapter of your life, I would wish you all the very best for pursuing whatever makes you happy and satisfies you and we as a family will always be behind you, supporting every decision you take!”
A powerful message for every citizen in the country today!
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
(Published on 24th August 2015, Volume XXVII, Issue 3 4 )
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