Tarique Anwar, BeyondHeadlines
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Government suspended IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt, who has accused Chief Minister Narendra Modi of misusing the state machinery against Muslims during the 2002 pogrom, last evening. The state Home Department has served the 1988-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer a five-page suspension letter, charging him of unauthorised absence.
“You are being placed under suspension for going on ‘unauthorised’ leave,” says the suspension order, also accusing the officer of failing to appear before a departmental panel and misusing an official vehicle.
Bhatt, who is posted at Junagadh State Reserve Police (SRP) Chowki, has been living at home in Ahmedabad since filing his affidavit against Modi in the Supreme Court last April. The state government stopped his salary sometime ago.
Director General of Police (DGP) Chitaranjan Singh had shot off a letter to him in March alleging that he was not attending to his duties. Bhatt had replied to the notices claiming that he was on leave for his mothers operation and had reported to duty after his leave.
The DGP’s office had also issued him a notice for keeping the state security personnel from the SRP chowki for his personal use without any authorisation, a charge Bhatt denied.
The suspension order comes just three days after Bhatt told the Supreme Court that the state government, which is meant to prosecute those accused of the communal riots of 2002, has actually been leaking information for use in their defence. In an affidavit filed in the apex court on Friday, Bhatt included emails that allegedly show how the state government was sharing information with the lawyers of some of those accused in the riots.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was appointed a few years ago by the Supreme Court to investigate the riots.
“They have suspended me with immediate effect. They can do anything they want,” PTI quoted Bhatt as saying.
Bhatt’s apex court affidavit said he was present at a meeting at Modi’s residence on the night of February 27, 2002, where the chief minister told officials to let the “Hindus vent their anger”. This was the day of the Godhra train fire, and the riots began the following morning.
Bhatt said he has emails that show classified parts of the SIT were being emailed to Tushar Mehta, who is the additional advocate general of Gujarat. According to the policeman, Mehta, who is meant to be handling the prosecution in different cases related to the riots, then forwarded emails containing the SIT excerpts to Gurumurthy Swaminathan, who is an RSS ideologue. Gurumurthy then forwarded the information to lawyer Ram Jethmalani and his son, Mahesh, who represents Amit Shah.
At the time of the riots, Shah was the home minister of Gujarat. Along with other ministers and Modi, he is being investigated for whether they misused government machinery during the riots. Mehta also shared the information, according to Bhatt’s affidavit, with lawyers for others accused in the riots.
Mehta and Bhatt were close friends. The lawyer allegedly gave the policeman access to his mail because they were planning family vacations together.
Bhatt has made headlines in the last few months after he told the Supreme Court that he attended a meeting on February 27, 2002 which was chaired by Chief Minister Narendra Modi. A total of 59 people had been killed by now in a train near Godhra; most of them were kar-sevaks on their way back from Ayodhya. Communal tension was surging through the state. Bhatt was posted with the State Intelligence Bureau at the time. He says the chief minister told the policemen to remain indifferent to calls of help from those being attacked by rioters. Bhatt recalls Modi as saying that it was imperative for Hindus to be allowed to “vent out their anger.”
Modi and other policemen who attended the meeting said Bhatt was not present.
Bhatt claims that he shared this information with the SIT set up by the Supreme Court to investigate the riots. The SIT, he says, showed little interest on following up on his allegations.
A few months ago, a criminal case was filed against Mr Bhatt by another police officer who says Bhatt forced him to testify that Bhatt attended Modi’s meeting with policemen in February 2002. Bhatt wants his case to be transferred out of Gujarat.
Sources close to Bhatt reveal that the IPS officer could soon approach the SC again claiming that the government was victimising him.
Soon after he had filed the affidavit, the Nanavati riot probe commission had summoned Bhatt to Ahmedabad. The officer applied for leave and, after his application was rejected, left Junagadh anyway and began living in Ahmedabad.
Last enening, his wife saw some officials roaming around the house for about an hour. Questioned by her, they said they had come to deliver a letter and were waiting for Bhatt since he was not in.
Former state police chief K. Chakravarty is to appear before the Nanavati commission tomorrow. Chakravarty has denied that Bhatt was at the February 27 meeting.