Over 500 people held a candle light vigil outside the residence of incarcerated whistleblower IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt on Monday evening, raising slogans and singing songs expressing their solidarity with him.
This was the first time that a public demonstration was held in Ahmedabad, the home constituency of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, to protest the witch-hunt of Sanjiv Bhatt, after his arrest last year in a 23-year-old case.
The Jamnagar district session’s court had recently sentenced Sanjiv Bhatt to life imprisonment on the charges of custodial death of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad activist 30 years ago.
Sanjiv Bhatt is lodged in Palanpur district jail since September 5 last year.
Hundreds of people, mostly from Ahmedabad, and about a dozen lawyers from Kerala, Mumbai and Jammu and Kashmir, gathered outside the residence of Sanjiv Bhatt to take part in the candle light vigil, unperturbed by the presence of a large contingent of policemen.
The vigil started at 7 pm and continued for almost two hours. Civil rights activists, journalists, lawyers and academics, both men and women, participated in the demonstration.
Expressing solidarity with Sanjiv Bhatt and his family, the demonstrators raised slogans like ‘Release Sanjiv Bhatt’, ‘Long live Sanjiv Bhatt’, ‘Sanjeev tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hain’ (carry on your fight, we are with you). Folk singer Vinay Mahajan charged up the demonstration by singing some revolutionary and solidarity songs.
A star attraction of the demonstration was Jammu lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat, who had successfully fought the case of the gang-rape victim of Kathua in Jammu, resulting in the conviction of the accused.
Deepika, who had come down from Jammu, visited Sanjiv Bhatt in Palanpur jail before taking part in the candlelight vigil. She said that ever since the life-term sentence passed by the Jamnagar session’s court, the jail authorities have been treating Sanjiv like an ordinary convict, making him wear the prisoner’s uniform, sleep on hard concrete bed and use soiled and bug-infested bed-sheets.
Restrictions have been imposed on visitors, including Sanjiv’s wife Sweta and son Shantanu, when they go to Palanpur to visit him. A jail official is always present when they meet Sanjiv.
Sanjiv’s family members are not allowed to bring with them home-cooked eatables, which Sanjiv used to share with other inmates of the jail earlier.
The candle light vigil was held by supporters of Sanjiv Bhatt, who have formed several groups on social media platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook.
While Sanjiv’s supporters have held public meetings in Kozhikode, Mumbai and Delhi, inviting his wife and son, this was the first time that a solidarity demonstration was held in Ahmedabad.