Sanjiv Bhatt: India riots whistleblower gets life in jail for murder

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Sanjiv BhattImage source, AFP
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Sanjiv Bhatt was a senior police officer in the Gujarat intelligence bureau at the time of the riots

A former top Indian policeman critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's alleged role in deadly anti-Muslim riots in 2002 has been jailed for life.

Sanjiv Bhatt was convicted of murder in a case dating back 30 years.

He alleged that Mr Modi, chief minister at the time of the violence in Gujarat, told officials Hindus should be allowed to vent their anger against Muslims.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the violence. Mr Modi has always denied any wrongdoing.

What was the case against Bhatt?

The murder conviction against Sanjiv Bhatt is in connection with a case in 1989, when he arrested more than 150 people during rioting. One of them later died in hospital after being released.

The man's family alleged that he died after being tortured by Bhatt and several other police officers.

Bhatt's conviction and sentencing were imposed by a sessions court in Gujarat state. He can appeal against the sentence.

He and his family have previously alleged that he was targeted by the government because of his allegations against Mr Modi.

The state authorities accuse him of fabricating evidence to implicate Mr Modi, who became PM in 2014.

What's the back story?

Riots erupted in Gujarat after 60 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire. They were some of the deadliest the country has seen since independence in 1947.

The cause of the train blaze was never clearly established. Hindu groups allege the fire was started by Muslim protesters, but an earlier inquiry said the fire was an accident.

Sanjiv Bhatt was a senior police officer in the Gujarat intelligence bureau at the time of the violence.

He says his position allowed him to come across large amounts of information and intelligence both before and during the violence, including the actions of senior administrative officials.

He was sacked in 2015 after being suspended in 2011.

In 2011, the Supreme Court cleared Mr Modi of involvement in the riots.