Shweta Bhatt would have been like any other middle-class Indian housewife—happy and content with no reason to complain about anything. She was leading a normal life with her husband Sanjiv Bhatt, a senior IPS officer, and her children, till her husband was arrested in September last year by the Gujarat police and locked up for many months without bail.
A few days ago, on June 20, he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Jamnagar Sessions Court in a case of custodial death that allegedly took place in November 1990, nearly 30 years ago. The young officer had joined the police force only a few weeks before this incident and the case had been lying dormant for decades till it was fast-tracked by the state administration recently. Bhatt’s conviction set a record for the Gujarat police as in the 16 years since 2001, there has been as many as 180 cases of custodial deaths in the state with no convictions except Bhatt’s.
Sanjiv Bhatt’s case has attracted national attention because it is seen as a case of political vendetta on the part of Narendra Modi government. The IPS officer had accused Modi of complicity in the violence let loose on Muslims in Gujarat in the post-Godhra riots in 2002. He gave evidence before the Nanavati Commission inquiring into the matter in 2011–following which he was placed under suspicion and later dismissed from service in 2015. Since his arrest on September 5 last year, he has been lodged in the Palampur jail in Gujarat.