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07 October 2011

GUJARAT RIOTS 2002: ‘Arrested IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt akin to Bollywood potboiler Singham’

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Have you watched Hindi superhit film Singham? If not, then follow the news of Gujarat IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's arrest by the state police after getting instruction from NAMO.Sanjiv Bhatt is like Singham against wrongdoing of BJP government in Gujarat. Read some out of the box in the episode.

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

The Gujarat police last week arrested Bhatt, who has implicated the chief minister for his alleged role in the 2002 riots. Suspended and chargesheeted earlier by the administration, Bhatt's arrest comes two days after his court affidavit linked senior functionaries in the Modi government to BJP leader Haren Pandya's murder.

Bhatt has been held on constable K D Pant's allegations of being forced to file a false anti-Modi affidavit. Sanjeev Bhatt had earlier claimed that he had other crucial evidence against the higher-ups involved in the Godhra riots but was not revealing the same since he was in custody. Bhatt had earlier come into the limelight after his damning revelations that cited Modi’s complicity in the 2002 post-Godhra riots.

Bhatt was arrested following an FIR filed against him by a police constable that alleged Bhatt to have pressurized and threatened the constable to sign a false affidavit regarding a high-level meeting called by Modi on Feb 27, 2002.

Political War begins

Apprehending a strategic move by the Narendra Modi government of politicizing the Sanjiv Bhatt case to embroil the Congress with an eye on the Vidhan Sabha elections, the Gujarat Congress moved to take on the ruling establishment head-on.

Leader of the Opposition in the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha, Shaktisinh Gohil and former deputy chief minister and Congress leader Narhari Amin called on the family of arrested IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt to extend their support and comfort them in their hour of distress.

The move is interpreted in political circles as the Gujarat Congress’ determination to take on the Modi establishment head-on after it sought to use the lowly constable KD Panth as a pawn to not only put the Deputy Inspector General of Police in the dock but also moved to embroil Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modvadia in the case.

Turning lower level police sub-ordinates around on their senior police officers is an all too familiar game played by the establishment when it wants to corner officers pursuing investigations uncomfortable to the ruling establishment. Senior IPS officer Satish Verma who was part of the Gujarat High Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) faced the same predicament when fellow officers loyal to the ruling establishment played similar games in the investigations of the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. However in this particular case a stern warning from the higher judiciary forced the officer concerned to back-off.

The Congress realizing that the Modi establishment was seeking to kill two birds with one stone with an eye on the BJP top brass at one end and the Assembly elections due next year, at the other, has decided to match blow for blow.

Though Ahmedabad police commissioner Sudhir Sinha, on extension, sought to deny that Modvadia may be arrested did not rule out the possibility of him being made a witness in the case.

In a move designed to send a signal to the bureaucracy that it means business, the Congress is coming out to support bureaucrats and police officers being victimized by the Modi establishment. State Congress elections in-charge and former Union Textile Minister Shankersinh Vaghela cast the first stone when he called on jailed IAS officer Pradeep Sharma in Bhuj, a day prior to flagging the Congress election campaign. Sharma, who fell-foul of Modi, faces a plethora of cases filed against him day after day and it is only two days ago that the Supreme Court stayed all cases against him.

Gohil and Amin called on Bhatt’s family and Vaghela is expected to follow suit. A highly placed Congress source said, “We can see through Modi’s gameplan as he plans to play victim before his party top brass even as he strategises to rout Advani-Jaitley-Swaraj for the 2014 national poll sweepstakes and the Congress in Gujarat next year. His problem is that we have Vaghela who understands his psyche and can match move for move.”

According to the Congress, the Modi establishment seeks to target Modvadia who has been a thorn in Modi’s flesh. The Gujarat Congress establishment derailed his move to pressurize the already under pressure UPA government at the Centre to make the Gujarat Governor Dr Kamala Beniwal back down on the appointment of the Lokayukta.

The Centre has moved out and the matter is now set for judicial response. The Modi move to turn the Governor’s removal into a national issue has also backfired since no national BJP leader of standing attended the Modi rally in Ahmedad for the purpose. Even Advani backed out.

Meanwhile the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has condemned the Gujarat government’s vindictive action in arresting Bhatt. “This is nothing but the frustration and desperate action of the government of Gujarat. This is an open action, not just attempt, on the part of government of Gujarat to intimidate all other important witnesses of Gujarat Carnage 2002. It is also equally shocking that he was arrested under sections 183,189, 193, 195 and 341 of the IPC. The action of government of Gujarat is nothing but subversion of the Constitution of India and the Rule of Law,” it said.

Interestingly Bhatt is presently lodged in Sabarmati Central jail where he was posted as Jail Superintendent in November 2003 after a court on Saturday rejected the police plea for his remand

Modi cannot hope to gain by conducting vendetta politics. No doubt the chief minister has an impressive development record going for him. But if he is to build his image and pitch himself on the national stage, such displays of vindictiveness have exactly the opposite effect. Besides, Gujarat necessarily has to come to terms with the destructive legacy of the 2002 riots, whose victims still await justice.

Even within his own party Modi will have to show a more tolerant face. For instance, boycotting his party's national executive session, and sulking over L K Advani's leadership pitch can hardly help Modi.

There's no doubt the chief minister needs an overall political makeover, if he is to neutralise his divisive image. He should worry that important NDA allies like Nitish Kumar are not ready to support his leadership bid. To overcome this drawback he needs to jettison vendettas against his enemies, and gain wider acceptance.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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