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Sanjiv Bhatt, Teesta Setalvad, Congress, leaked emails and BlackBerry: How the ‘ecosystem’ was united to play politics over the dead

The case against so-called activist Teesta Setalvad, Sanjiv Bhatt, RB Sreekumar exposes the network of entrenched interests that banded together to play politics and capitalise during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The recent filing of a case against so-called activist Teesta Setalvad, retired police officer Sanjiv Bhatt, and former Gujarat DGP & AAP leader RB Sreekumar exposes the network of entrenched interests that banded together to play politics and capitalise during the 2002 Gujarat riots. According to the FIR, the accused attempted to generate sensation by lying to investigators about the Gujarat riots. According to the FIR, the SIT thoroughly investigated their accusations and found them to be false. The same comments were also made by the Supreme Court while rejecting the plea of Zakia Jafri.

The three have been charged by Ahmedabad’s crime branch with violating sections of the India Penal Code 468 (Forgery for the Purpose of Cheating), 471 (Use of Forged Document or Record as Genuine), 194 (Giving or Fabricating False Evidence with Intent to Procure Conviction of Capital Offence), 211 (False Charge of Offence Made with Intent to Injure), 218 (Public Servant Framing Incorrect Record), and 120B (criminal conspiracy).

All of this came a day after the Supreme Court ruled that fraudulent statements of a “larger conspiracy” in the Gujarat riots case were made. The Supreme Court stated in its decision rejecting Zakia Jafri’s appeal that the testimony offered by Sanjiv Bhatt, Haren Pandya, and R.B. Sreekumar was solely aimed to sensationalise and politicise the issues. Regarding Teesta, the apex court had said that she has been vindictively persecuting the matter for her ulterior design by exploiting the emotions and sentiments of Zakia Jafri.

In addition, in a recent interview, Home Minister Amit Shah revealed that Teesta Setalvad was actively involved in characterising the establishment as irresponsible and fabricating testimony to influence the proceedings. Here’s a look at how they all came together to falsify testimonies and characterise the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat administration as dishonest and reckless.

Fake allegations by Sanjiv Bhatt

On March 23, 2008, the Supreme Court made a Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief R K Raghavan to inquire and examine charges related to the 2002 riots. The Court instructed the SIT to probe Modi’s conduct and those of 62 other persons identified in The plea by Zakia Jafri in 2009. It was at this juncture that, Sanjiv Bhatt was called as a key witness against Modi.

In 2009, Sanjiv Bhatt brought three allegations against Modi. The first was that Narendra Modi wanted Muslims to be taught a lesson. The second one was that CM was hesitant to call in the army on the morning of February 28th. The third one is that the CM planned to take the dead bodies of Godhra train fire victims to Ahmedabad and parade them across the city in order to incite riots against Muslims.

However, the SIT’s conclusions were diametrically opposed to Bhatt’s assertions. The SIT discovered that Bhatt was not present at the meeting that he claims Modi scheduled in order to teach Muslims a lesson. For the second charge, the SIT discovered that the government was quick enough to summon the army on February 28th. The fact that the 54 bodies had to be taken to Ahmedabad since the relatives of these people resided in and around the city refuted Bhatt’s last assertion. Bodies were transported in a van guarded by police officers who were replaced three times throughout the 130-kilometre travel.

Congress, E-mails, and ‘Blackberry’

Bhatt has a lengthy history of forgery and exploiting his authority for personal benefit. It is worth noting that while these investigations were ongoing IN 2008-2009, SIT was presented with evidence of Bhatt’s regular interactions with Congress Party leaders, affiliated NGOs, and media. In one such e-mail, Bhatt told Gujarat Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil that he was “eagerly awaiting both packages” and “still awaiting the Blackberry.” According to widely held views, “Blackberry” was a metaphor for the funds Bhatt used to get from Gohil. All of these discoveries and data openly point the finger at Bhatt for his cooperation in the endeavour to play dirty politics over the deceased.

The Gujarat government furnished the SIT team with a batch of emails exchanged between Sanjiv Bhatt, DIG, Gujarat Police, and specific persons in April and May 2011. These emails demonstrate that during the course of an investigation launched by the DG (Civil Defence), Gujarat into Sanjiv Bhatt, IPS for misusing government resources, several revelations were made that had a direct influence on the cases being examined by SIT. According to the findings, Sanjiv Bhatt used “Media Card” and “Pressure Groups” to persuade numerous NGOs and other interested groups to influence the Amicus Curiae and the Supreme Court of India.

Bleak record of Sanjiv Bhatt

Sanjiv Bhatt perpetrated atrocities against peaceful and innocent villagers who belonged to a certain group at a location named Jam Jodhpur while managing law and order situations during his appointment as ASP Jamnagar in the year 1990. One individual died as a result of the police beatings. A pregnant mother, two assistant irrigation engineers, and one circle officer from the revenue department were among the casualties.

Sumer Singh Rajpurohit, an Advocate practising in Pali, Rajasthan, filed another criminal complaint against Sanjiv Bhatt in 1996, while he was serving as SP; Banaskantha District. According to the criminal complaint, Sanjiv Bhatt and his junior police officers reportedly planted 1.5 kg of a narcotic substance in a hotel room in Palanpur, Gujarat, which was fraudulently shown as being inhabited by Rajpurohit, despite the fact that he was in Pali (Rajasthan) at the time. The Advocate was kidnapped at midnight on the orders of Sanjiv Bhatt by his subordinate Gujarat police officials, who travelled from Palanpur, Gujarat to Pali (Rajasthan) to abduct him.

Teesta Setalvad and RB Sreekumar, hatchers of the conspiracy

Teesta Setalvad, a self-described rights activist, was one of the co-petitioners who sought a criminal prosecution for then-Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 other ministers for their alleged involvement in the riots. When the Supreme Court dismissed Zakia Jafri’s petition on June 24, it made a critical note about Setalvad’s role in the case. The Supreme Court ruled that ‘activist’ Teesta Setalvad used petitioner Zakia Jafri’s emotions for “ulterior motives.”

The court even said that there is a need for further investigation into Teesta Setalvad as she was using Zakia Jafri’s feelings in the case for her own benefit. The court noted, “It is submitted that Ms Teesta Setalvad, for reasons best known to her and out of vengeance, was interested in continuing with her tirade and persecution on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations in the complaint in the name of the quest for justice with real purpose to keep the pot boiling and sensationalise and politicise the crime.”

Former Gujarat DGP and currently Aam Aadmi Party politician RB Sreekumar was also among those who deliberately attempted to tarnish the reputation of Narendra Modi and the Gujarat government during the 2002 riots. Similar to Sanjiv Bhatt, Sreekumar had also claimed that CM Narendra Modi had ordered to go slow against Hindu mob after the Godhra massacre. But just like SIT had found that Bhatt was not present at the meeting where Modi was alleged to have made those comments, Sreekumar was also not present in that meeting. In fact, he had said that he had heard it from others later.

It is notable that RB Sreekumar is also an accused in the framing of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in fake espionage case. Sreekumar was the IB deputy director when the Kerala police had filed the false case based on doctored inputs provided by the IB. He was also in news for filing a defamation case against Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh, which was dismissed.

RB Sreekumar and Teesta Setalvad are now in the custody of Gujarat police. Sanjib Bhatt is already in jail as he was convicted in a custodial death case.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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