BeyondHeadlines News Desk
New Delhi: The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has expressed grave concern over the “discriminatory and vindictive agenda being pursued by the Gujarat government that is reflected in the arrest of whistleblower police officer Sanjiv Bhatt.”
A press statement circulated by the IAMC said that 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 and displacement of thousands of Muslims, the statement said.
Last month, 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, 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 Haren Pandya.
“Failing to persuade me either to withdraw my report or destroy 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, 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,” Bhatt said in the affidavit.
Against this backdrop, Sanjiv Bhatt’s arrest by the state 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.
“The 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,” said IAMC President Shaheen Khateeb. “It is equally remarkable that barely any arrests or convictions have happened in over 2,000 cases filed by the victims of the 2002 massacres,” added Khateeb.
The IAMC has urged the Gujarat government to eschew the sectarian agenda that have marked Modi’s 10 years as the chief minister. 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 is clearly part of a pattern of vendetta against whisteblowers and human rights activists. Of the many evidences of the Gujarat government’s sinister pattern of complicity and deceit are the following:
People like Babu Bajrangi, Haresh Bhatt and Ramesh Dave who have confessed in sting operations, telecast to the entire nation, to killing hundreds of people are still at large, while whistleblower officers like Sanjiv Bhatt, Rahul Sharma and R. B. Sreekumar and human rights activists such as Teesta Setalvad and Shakeel Tirmizi have been subject to arrests and intimidation on dubious charges.
Amit Shah, former minister of state for home affairs, who was arrested on charges of running an extortion and a fake encounter killing racket, is currently out on bail and is likely to be sentenced. The fact that 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 duplicitious role towards law and order.
D G Vanzara, the former head of the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) is serving time in jail on charges of fake encounters. Vanzara’s closeness to Modi once made him the most powerful police official in the state.
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 people during the 2002 riots. 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.
The IAMC believes the CBI should be tasked with conducting a full-scale investigation into the allegations made by Sanjiv Bhatt against Narendra Modi and other state functionaries. As the Haren Pandya murder case remains unsolved, Bhatt’s claim of possessing documentary evidence that would point to his killers should be probed without any regard to the status and position of the people he has implicated.
The IAMC 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.
Indian American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.