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Sanjiv Bhatt, a former Indian police officer has been hounded by a vindictive State for exposing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in the Gujarat genocide of 2002. From prolonged incarceration on trumped-up charges to continued harassment, Bhatt and his family have endured it all with dignity and grace.
In order to stand against the oppressors, a group of civil rights activists and organizations from India and the US have urged the Supreme Court of India, to offer bail to Bhatt.
On Monday, January 18, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) and Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), held a virtual press conference to address this issue, saying his conviction in a murder case was wrong and based on fraudulent evidence.
The groups said that Bhatt had been targeted only because he had alleged that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been complicit in the Hindutva extremist violence against Muslims in Gujarat nearly two decades ago.
Senior Congress leader and former minister Shashi Tharoor said he was “outraged by the injustice meted out” to Bhatt, whose “conscientious service to society” and “indomitable capacity for speaking truth to power” had put him in jail.
“Sanjiv’s case is a reflection of the grim times that we live in, where constitutional values and fundamental privileges that have been granted by the constitution to all Indians appear in many cases to be diluted and in many cases perhaps even supplanted by illiberal forces,” Tharoor said.
“All Indians with a conscience like Sanjiv Bhatt’s must stand up and fight back against such challenges that threaten to undermine the very foundation of our republic,” he said.
Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director of the Indian American Muslim Council, said the Indian government must stop “politically managing Mr. Sanjiv Bhat’s case and let the law take its course under the supervision of independent judges not the judges who are either scared of government or have themselves become political.”
Raju Rajagopal, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights said, “In 2018, he was interrogated on a decades-old case, was tried on completely bogus charges without any opportunity for the defense to call their witnesses, and was put him away for life.”
Renowned documentary filmmaker and human rights defender Anand Patwardhan said Bhatt had been jailed “for no other reason than the fact that he opposed the massacre in 2002” and spoke against it. Patwardhan said the civil society “should build a movement for Bhatt’s release”.
Human rights activist, classical dancer and actor Mallika Sarabhai said there was a “definite agenda” not only in Bhatt’s case but in most cases of most critics of the Modi government.
“If anyone speaks against the government or asks a question, which is a fundamental right of our democracy, they are somehow punished. Raids are carried out against them, false cases are brought up, fraudulent charges are made, and they are made to silence,” Sarabhai alleged.
The Supreme Court of India has scheduled a bail hearing for Bhatt on January 22.