Tuesday, 29 November 2011

‘My stand vis-à-vis Narendra Modi is nothing beyond the stand between an IPS officer and a person accused of heinous crimes’

From Hardnews
Face to Face with IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt who took on the might of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Sayema Sahar Delhi
The majority does not seem to be convinced about the reason that you give for your silence of 7 years?
In order to truly understand and appreciate the constraining reasons for my so-called silence till 2009, one needs to appreciate the implications of being a senior officer in the Intelligence Bureau (IB). As a senior officer-in-charge of the internal security of a border state like Gujarat one is bound by certain professional codes. Intelligence is a very specialised branch of the police. All officers of the IB are bound by an oath of secrecy that forbids them from disclosing any information that they have been privy to by virtue of their office. The only exception to this proscription is when the officer is under a binding legal obligation to disclose such information. It was only in 2009 that I was first summoned by the Supreme Court appointed SIT. That was the very first opportunity afforded to me for bringing out the truth of the Gujarat carnage of 2002. Many people have questioned my silence from 2002 to 2009. All I have to say to them is that I was privy to the information pertaining to the Gujarat mayhem as an officer of the IB and hence could not have officially divulged the information otherwise under a binding legal obligation. Despite having been cited as a witness in the complaint of Zakia Jafri in 2006, it was only in 2009 that I was called upon to depose by the SIT. I came out with all the relevant and germane facts at the very first opportunity. The patience of the law enforcer has always got to be greater than that of the law breaker. It is the kind of patience that requires you to hold on and keep going at your objective in spite of all odds being loaded against you. It is the kind of patience that requires you to hold on to the truth and everything connected with it, even when the simple act of bringing out the truth is seen as nothing short of hara-kiri. This kind of patience is not easy but it is definitely very rewarding and satisfying. Let me tell you that the wait has not been an easy one. People have questioned and will continue questioning my timing and my motives. I will not be surprised if ulterior motives are attributed to my actions. Be that as it may, ultimately our only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to ourselves. I have been true to myself and my calling. Nothing else really matters.
A section of society holds you equally responsible for the 2002 carnage. How do you react to this? And also to the way some clerics shared stage with Modi?
People are entitled to their own opinions. People, by and large, are gullible and fall prey to the systematic misinformation campaign and Goebbelesian propaganda of the modern day fascists in our country. I am very clear in my mind and in my conscience about what I have done, what I am doing and what I will be required to do in the days to come. In 2002, as an officer with the IB, my primary role was to collect and share intelligence with the concerned authorities; as also to create, maintain and share reports with different agencies as per the mandate. I can say with all humility at my command that the IB discharged its duty with a very high degree of professionalism and efficiency during the 2002 carnage. My stand was, is and shall always be in accordance with my duties and obligations as an officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS). This is not about any particular section of the society. This is not about Modi. This is not about me. It is about the role of the State under the Constitution of India. This is about upholding the rule of law in a constitutional democracy that takes pride in its ethnic and communal diversity.
You say that you religiously kept reporting about the Government's complicity in the carnage but the popular belief is that you kept quiet for 7 years and you spoke only after your tiff with the Modi Government? Are you trying to settle some personal scores with the government?
I have never had any personal tiff with the Modi Government. I am an IPS officer and I serve during the pleasure of the president of this country. At present, my services have been placed at the disposal of the state government of Gujarat. Strictly speaking, as per our Constitution, I do not have a servant-master relationship with the State Government of Gujarat. Narendra Modi or his government does not mean anything to me personally. As I have said earlier, to my mind, Narendra Modi is nothing more than a chief minister who happened to preside over and orchestrated the Gujarat carnage. That he still continues to be the chief minister and also brazenly continues to oversee and coordinate the on-going cover-up operations aimed at subverting the criminal justice system in Gujarat is purely incidental. I do not have any personal score to settle with him. My stand vis-à-vis NarendraModi is nothing beyond the stand between an IPS officer and a person accused of heinous crimes.
There are eyebrows raised on your hobnobbing with Congress leaders, asking favors from them like that Blackberry phone. How do you justify that?
I have been brought up in Gujarat and have served for more than 23 years in the state's IPS cadre. Having done three stints in the IB, I have contacts with all the political parties in the state. From time to time, as an officer with the IB, I have had sources in all political parties as I them in the underworld as well as in banned outfits like SIMI etc. I have never sought any favour from any political party till date. The Blackberry in question was temporarily loaned to me by Shaktisinh Gohil, the leader of opposition in Gujarat Legislative Assembly, as all his phone lines were being tapped by the agencies of the state government and he wanted to temporarily establish a relatively safe communication link with me. I am aware that even my phones are being tapped, but as an IPS officer I really do not care as to who is listening to my conversations. But I have to respect the need for confidentiality of the person at the other end, and therefore, at times, howsoever unwillingly, I am required to take certain precautions. That is the current state of democracy in Gujarat.
The Government now plans to reopen all the pending cases against you. Does this worry you at all?
This is a very vindictive administrative setup headed by a very vindictive and desperate man. Such actions are expected. It would surprise me if they would have acted any different. Having said that, I would like to add that I am not at all worried about reopening of cases because I have done no wrong and I have absolute faith in the judiciary.
I read somewhere that you have written some 14 letters so far asking the authorities to beef up your security. Do you see anything happening at all in this regard? Have you ever received any threat call?
The gravest threat to me and my family members emanates from Narendra Modi and his cohorts. It is quite paradoxical that I have to petition the same state government of which he happens to be the chief executive.
How did it feel to be an inmate in Sabarmati jail where you were posted as a superintendent once?
I see the period of incarceration as a sabbatical. Nothing can touch my mind or spirit unless I want it to. I was absolutely relaxed and felt at home.
How is the family coping with the day to day pressure sir?
I am blessed with a wonderful wife and two delightful kids. My entire family and all my friends are with us. We are fortunate to have a very powerful support system and more importantly all my family members and friends share the same set of values and ideals.
What is your message to the people who criticise you?
All I can tell them is to always remember one thing about democracy that we can have anything we want but at the same time we always end up with exactly what we deserve.
The famous quote attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller, about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the selective purgatory targeting of group after group, comes to my mind...
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.

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