Indian-Americans disappointed at Indian Court’s decision to uphold whistleblower Sanjiv Bhatt’s life sentence
Washington, D.C. (Jan 9, 2024) – The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) has expressed profound dismay over the recent decision of the Gujarat High Court to uphold the life sentence of former Indian police officer and whistleblower Sanjiv Bhatt.
IAMC notes with concern that Sanjiv Bhatt is a key witness providing evidence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the bloody massacre of approximately 2,000 Muslims at the hands of Hindu mobs during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. IAMC calls on the international community to advocate for due process and fair treatment in Mr. Bhatt’s case, emphasizing the need to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their politics, are subject to the rule of law and that no individual is wrongfully detained.
In 2002, exploiting the tragic deaths of Hindu pilgrims in a train fire, Modi incited widespread anti-Muslim violence across the state. Subsequently, Hindu mobs perpetrated horrific attacks on Muslim women, men, and children, often without any intervention from the police.
In 2011, Sanjiv Bhatt filed an affidavit in the Indian Supreme Court, presenting evidence that Modi instructed law enforcement not to intervene in the violence, stating, “Let Hindus vent their anger.”
Subsequently, Modi weaponized his authority and pressured India’s judicial system to retaliate against Bhatt for his testimony. Bhatt was suspended from his police duties at Modi’s urging just four months after filing the affidavit. Following Modi’s ascent to Prime Ministership in 2014, Bhatt was dismissed from service in 2015, and his offices, along with part of his family’s home, were demolished as a punitive measure.
Further compounding this injustice, Bhatt was arrested in a 30-year-old custodial death case in which he had no involvement in 2018. He was falsely convicted in 2019 and given a life sentence.
Despite Bhatt appealing his conviction, his life sentence was upheld by a division bench of the Gujarat High Court.
“Sanjiv Bhatt is the only surviving witness who can testify that Prime Minister Modi played a direct role in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002,” said IAMC Executive Director Rasheed Ahmed.
“It is imperative for the international community to demand his release, ensuring justice not only for Mr. Bhatt but also for the victims of the pogrom. Modi must not be allowed to evade accountability by imprisoning an innocent man,” Ahmed added.
IAMC’s statement reflects growing concerns among Indian-Americans and human rights advocates about the state of judicial independence and human rights in India, both of which are rapidly deteriorating under Modi’s authoritarian rule. It is imperative that international human rights groups continue to call for Mr. Bhatt’s release.