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Updated: October 4, 2011 02:29 IST

"Whither rule of law in Gujarat?"

Devesh K. Pandey
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Film maker Mahesh Bhatt along with others during a protest demonstration demanding the release of Suspended IPS Officer Sanjeev Bhatt, outside Gujarat Bhawan in New Delhi on October 03, 2011. Photo: S. Subramanium
The Hindu Film maker Mahesh Bhatt along with others during a protest demonstration demanding the release of Suspended IPS Officer Sanjeev Bhatt, outside Gujarat Bhawan in New Delhi on October 03, 2011. Photo: S. Subramanium

Nationwide protests by rights activists against Modi government's action

Civil society organisations on Monday upped the ante, organising protests, demonstrations, dharnas and meetings against the “arbitrary and unconstitutional arrest of whistle-blower Sanjiv Bhatt” by the Narendra Modi regime in Gujarat.

On a call by Anhad (Act Now For Harmony and Democracy) for nationwide protests, human right activists staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar here and a demonstration outside the Gujarat Bhavan here, demanding the immediate release of the IPS officer. Addressing a press conference, Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad said protests were organised in over 40 cities across the country.

“It is a strange case wherein an accused is prosecuting the prime witness … To me, Gujarat no longer seems to be part of this country. No rule of law matters there,” she said.

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt said the “eliminationist campaign” waged by the Bharatiya Janata Party against all perceived enemies on the ground of ideology needed to be opposed. “Sanjiv Bhatt's fault was that he dared to reveal the truth behind the 2002 carnage as also the murder of Haren Pandya[former Minister].” While the “drama of Sadbhavana” was being enacted in Gujarat, activists like Mallika Sarabhai were not allowed to tell the real story.

“I spoke to Sanjiv the evening he was arrested [Friday], asking that since the worst had happened, what he needed to tell the world outside. He said it was now for the courts to ensure that the rule of law was imposed in Gujarat and the nation. We as civil society should come together and lock horns with this kind of mindset,” said Mr. Mahesh Bhatt.

“Most atrocious”

Endorsing these views, the retired Gujarat Director-General of Police, R.B. Sreekumar, said: “The arrest of Mr. Bhatt is the culmination of a policy followed by the Modi government since the conception, organisation, mobilisation and perpetration of an anti-minority carnage in 2002. Of all the actions, this is the most atrocious.”

After the 2002 carnage, the Modi government started terrorising the bureaucracy, including the police, he alleged.

The retired DGP said the first whistle-blower against Mr. Modi's alleged role in planning an attack against minorities, particularly as a revenge for the Godhra incident, was Haren Pandya. “Where is Haren Pandya now? He was eliminated in the most suspicious circumstances, doubts have been raised about the Central Bureau of Investigation's probe. That time it was under the NDA government,” he added.

Mr. Sreekumar said Mr. Bhatt was the second person to give direct evidence. “The indirect evidence was provided by me. I have so far filed eight affidavits, running into 579 pages, all of which have been accepted by the Nanavati Commission.”

“First victim”

Alleging that he was the first victim of Mr. Modi's wrath, Mr. Sreekumar said it was only with the help of activist Teesta Setalvad and his well-wishers that he could be saved. “No advocate was willing to take up my case. She could manage some advocates from Mumbai.”

The police had now booked Mr. Bhatt under Section 194 of the Indian Penal Code, the punishment for which extends to death. “It is a warning to anyone who comes forward with evidence against Mr. Modi,” Mr. Sreekumar said.

“If electoral victory is a licence for violating the Constitution, the rule of law and ethics, our freedom is under threat.”

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