When I came to know that Sanjiv Bhatt had been sentenced to life, the first thought that crossed my mind is worth sharing. India has got its Nelson Mandela, I thought to myself. Every country needs a hero or a heroine, especially in dark times. A hero offers a flicker of hope when dark clouds gather ominously threatening the sunshine. South Africa got Nelson Mandela when everything went wrong for the country. Apartheid was institutionalised. Whites and blacks were segregated under an inhuman system and justice was trodden under heavy boots. Then came the Rivonia Trial. A young, bearded thickest man was thrown into prison for life. And the rest is history.
When Mandela came out of prison in 1990, he strode like a colossus. His enemies looked pygmies in comparison. Mandela went on to become the country President and ushered in a rainbow nation where people of different colours thrived. I still recall the day Dr Mandela was released. I was in Jamshedpur watching a Hindi movie on the good, old Doordarshan. Suddenly, there was a break and it was announced that the Prime Minister of India would address the nation. My heart skipped a beat. Generally, the Prime Minister addresses the country when a crisis looms large. But then a smiling face of VP Singh appeared on the screen. He happily informed India that Nelson Mandela was out of the prison.I rejoiced at my didi’s TELCO colony apartment.
UNESCO later declared Mandela’s prisons as World Heritage Sites! I have admired Sanjiv Bhatt (IPS – 88 – Gujarat) for years. When other IAS and IPS officers behaved like caged parrots of their political masters. Bhatt roared as a lion of Gujarat’s Gir jungles. When top cops turned into bootlickers of third-rate netas, Bhatt stood like the Rock of Gibraltar! He called a spade a spade and paid for his principles dearly. Bhatt submitted an affidavit holding Narendra Modi responsible for bloody Gujarat riots!
When officers in khaki cowered in Modi’s presence, Bhatt told the truth when most Indians thought that Satya Harishchandra existed in movies and dramas only. Here, a Satya Harishchandra was calling the bluff of hate-mongering netas out to divide India for kursi. A knight in the shining armour taking on demons of hatred, falsehood and greed. Bhatt was hounded ruthlessly. He was sent behind bars. When Modi became the PM, Bhatt was dismissed on frivolous grounds. Then he was framed in a drugs related case. And now implicated in a custodial death case going back to 1990 when Advani was on rampage and his Rath Yatra was spilling blood across India. But Sanjiv Bhatt is a fighter of the highest order. A battle-hardened cop who has been single-handedly giving sleepless nights to fascists for years.
In India, prisons enjoy sanctity because Lord Krishna was born in a prison! During the freedom struggle, jails were called Krishna Mandirs by freedom fighters. So, Sanjiv Bhatt may remain in the Krishna Mandir for years to come. But modern-day Kans Mamas shouldn’t rejoice. A jailed Bhatt may prove more dangerous to them than a free Bhatt. And the fight is not yet over.
Bhatt has been sentenced by a lower court in Jamnagar, Gujarat. The High Court and the Supreme Court can always overturn the verdict. I remember that a Delhi Police sub-inspector Balbir Singh was sentenced to death by the Delhi High Court for conspiring to assassinate Indira Gandhi. But the Honourable Supreme Court set him free.
Let us all rally behind Shweta Bhatt, Sanjiv Sir’s brave wife. I hope that lawyers like Prashant Bhushan will take up Sanjiv Bhatt’s case. When nobody was willing to fight Bhagat Singh’s case, a Muslim lawyer Asaf Ali came forward to plead for the Shaheed-e-Azam. Let Prashant Bhushan become another Asaf Ali. In the fight against fascism, we all are Sanjiv Bhatts.
(Mr. Amitabh Kumar Das is a former IPS officer.)