Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sanjiv Bhatt -- sacked ! A sharp cop who made news for reasons right or wrong !!


Not quite surprising though, the news of Gujarat cop Sanjiv Bhatt 'sacked' is 'sad news' for some of us -- who knew him and who enlisted his 'help' in journalistic venture of 2002 Gujarat -- when the state belonged to Narendra Modi and his "chhey crore (6 crore) Gujaratis". 
On October 17, 2011 after days of fierce legal battle for a case, Bhatt walked out of the Sabarmati central jail to an enthusiastic welcome after he was granted bail by judge VK Vyas. Walking out of the jail, Bhatt told waiting journalists that this was just the beginning of his battle – “the cause I am fighting is bigger than me”. Perhaps here lies the true spirit of a soldier who wanted to take on 'Gujarat-ka-sher'. 



In my book 'Modi to Moditva - An Uncensored Truth' published in 2012...I had called 'Sanjiv sahab'// he hated being called 'Bhatt sahab' ----- "The man against Modi". All said, in short, he was one of my “favourites” among the sources I had in Ahmedabad in 2002. 
The 1988 batch IPS offer, Bhatt, is a quintessential fighter as well as one of most media-friendly cops in Gujarat. Probably, no journalist who has worked in Ahmedabad for a brief period would not know him or has not taken the benefit of his ‘help’ in terms of getting the ‘right and police’ version (information) about things happening in the state. I am one person, who ought to have the necessary gratitude for all his help from the day I happened to know him. My first interaction with Bhatt was over phone after I managed to get in touch with his office at Gandhinagar, courtesy my fellow journalist friends Thomas Kutty Abraham and Anosh Malekar. 

“Let’s meet up sometime,” was his open invitation and I, like scores of other journalists deputed to cover country’s toughest assignment of circa 2002, started counting Bhatt as a ‘friend’ and a ‘reliable source’, to use the journalistic cliché. ‘Sanjiv Sahab’, he disapproved being called ‘Bhatt sahab’, would often go out of the way to help provide us the information we were looking for. 

During 2002, one of the stories I broke was about a large number of Muslim youths getting their act together to float ‘Lashkar-e-Khaladeen’. Bhatt was one of the men who put me on the track to get hold of the story. As we started knowing him gradually, various facets of his qualities and perhaps also a certain weaknesses started coming to light. But all said, in short, he was one of my “favourites” among the sources I had in Ahmedabad especially during the tough assignment of covering Gujarat in 2002 that too for a highly demanding news organization, the Press Trust of India.
He was again a true friend who come to my aid when I landed in Ahmedabad on September 23, 2002, the day Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar was attacked by two terrorists. 

By then Bhatt, alleged to have ruffled Modi regime, was already transferred out of the crime branch. But the moment I called him seeking information on the terror attack and other details, his response was typical of Sanjiv Bhatt characteristic: “I am nobody now; but you are my friend from Mumbai and I promise I will help you”.
Needless to add, the information flew in. Later his wife Shwetta once told me, “Sanjiv sat near the phone and kept on collecting information for you from junior guys. He said he could not say no to his babu moshai” (The last phrase is reference to my being a Bengali).

Even otherwise, I found a typical ‘Mumabikar-like’ helpful approach in him. And why not? He was born in Mumbai and had his education from IIT, Bombay. “As a Mumbai man, I would always cherish your association. That city knows how to stay together, the pluralism and so on ….. and look what has happened to Ahmedabad,” he had told me in April 2002. A bright student, Bhatt should have been otherwise making news as the one of the first IPS officers among Gujaratis. Bhatt has made news for reasons best known to him – right or wrong. 
Namo's Half glass full-Half Glass empty applied to Sanjiv
On April 22, 2011, Bhatt, then principal of the State Reserve Police Training College, Junagadh, had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that Chief Minister Narendra Modi had directed top police officers on the eve of the 2002 pogrom to “allow the Hindus to vent their anger” and “teach a lesson” to Muslims. He also had accused the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team of trying to “cover up the larger conspiracy and official orchestration” behind the carnage.  
Perhaps he was right; perhaps he fell into some anti-Modi camp and was misled into the entire controversy ! I know, he won't like my saying so.


But the decision of his wife Shweta to contest on Congress ticket against Modi in Maninagar assembly segment in December 2012 was definitely a misguided game.

As a loving husband Sanjiv had accompanied Shwetaji to file the nomination papers on November 30, 2012 minutes before Namo filed his. Incidentally, I was deputed to cover election campaign that was billed as 'semi-final' for Modi. I had a brief meeting with our Sanjiv sahab amid slogan shouting and TV crew jostling over each other. I did complain, "Sir, you did not answer the questions I mailed you for an interview for the book I wrote". He was still in his usual spirit and simply smiled and retorted, "congrats for your book". I am sure Sanjiv Bhatt would never endorse the title of the book itself. But that's him, a good friend !

Ultimately what has happened is SAD....personally I cherish those struggling days as a journo deputed by PTI Mumbai to cover 2002 Gujarat and you were always there...dear sir.

(some portions in this blog piece are extracts from my book 'Modi to Moditva.....')

ends  

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