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South Asian activists came together to raise their voices for a senior Indian police officer who is being persecuted for standing up against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Sunday, July 21 at Holland Park in Surrey.

Bhatt was recently given a life sentence for the custodial death of a man arrested in connection with sectarian violence in 1989.

Members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) who organized the rally believe that Bhatt has been implicated in a false case at the behest of the ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

Since Bhatt testified against Modi for the latter’s complicity in the anti-Muslim massacre of 2002, he has been framed to instil fears in the minds of those who continue to fight for justice to the victims of the pogrom engineered by the BJP.

Bhatt had testified that Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat back then, had directed the police to look the other way and let Hindu mobs target Muslims. The carnage followed the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims leaving more than 50 people dead. Modi had instantly blamed Islamic fundamentalists for the incident, which according to one commission of enquiry was an accident.

The participants at the Sunday demonstration carried the placards that read, “Justice for Sanjiv Bhatt.” The speakers unanimously condemned the sentencing and asked for his immediate release. They also questioned why he was being singled out when many other police officers involved in extra judicial killings of Muslims, Sikhs and members of other minority communities continue to enjoy the backing of the state. They also demanded freedom of other political prisoners. Slogans against ongoing state repression and draconian laws in India under a fascist regime were also raised on the occasion.

Notably, the Sikh activists came out to show their wholehearted support to Bhatt, who had also stood up for the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre. Thousands of Sikhs were murdered all across India by the mobs following the assassination of then-Indian Prime Minister by Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Bhatt had refused to accept an award from a group that had invited a controversial politician, Jagdish Tytler, who was involved in the Sikh massacre.

Barjinder Singh of Sikh Nation spoke passionately in support of Bhatt at the rally. Sikh Nation organizes an annual blood drive in memory of those who were murdered during the 1984 violence.

Other Sikh activists who spoke were Guru Nanak Singh Temple Surrey-Delta Secretary Gurmeet Singh Toor and Kesar Singh Baghi.

Among others who spoke at the rally was Conservative Party candidate for Surrey-Newton and prominent TV host Harpreet Singh. Singh was the only political figure to show up. He has consistently spoken against human rights abuses in India both as a TV broadcaster and a political activist.

Muslim activist Sayed Wajahat, leftist activists Rawait Singh and Joseph Theriault, besides IAPI members Rakesh Kumar and Gurpreet Singh also spoke at the rally.


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