The arrest of Gujarat police officer Sanjiv Bhatt could be the next flashpoint between the Centre and the Modi government.
The union home ministry on Tuesday asked the state government to ensure adequate security for the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and his family. The Modi government hit back, slamming the “unnecessary intervention”.
The war of words erupted hours after an Ahmedabad court reserved, for October 7, its orders on the state's revision petition against the judicial remand of the officer after Bhatt refused the judge’s suggestion that he show his bank lockers to the police, as requested, to secure bail.
“This is a battle of principles. I’m ready to remain in jail for however long it takes, but will not compromise at any cost,” he said.
The officer, who was arrested on September 30, is in judicial custody on charges of wrongful confinement and fabrication of evidence.
On Monday, his wife Shweta wrote to the home ministry expressing fears that Bhatt could be “physically ill-treated” by a “vindictive administration”. In April, Bhatt had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court alleging Modi's complicity in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots.
The Centre wrote to the state authorities to provide security “to Bhatt and his family as per local threat perception”.
It has also decided to independently assess the threat perception after state police claimed that there was no specific threat to the officer.
If the Intelligence Bureau finds substance to the fears and the home ministry makes him a central protectee, it will be obligatory on the Modi government to protect Bhatt.
“The quick response from the ministry only confirms our belief that there is connivance between Bhatt, Congress and the Centre,” a senior Gujarat minister told HT on condition of anonymity.
Defending the arrest, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said it was done as per the legal process. “Is it fashionable to talk anti-Modi?” she asked in New Delhi.
Social activists Anna Hazare, however, came out in support of Bhatt. “What Modi has done is wrong. It is not good for democracy,” Hazare said at his native village Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra.