Sanjiv Bhatt

Place: The Heart of Darkness Date: Another Day in Battle
Dearest Shweta, Aakashi, Shantanu and Friends,
Shweta, I am writing to you after almost three decades! The last time I wrote to you was from the National Police Academy. That makes me realize how time has flown. Seems just like yesterday when we embarked upon our journey of shared dreams… and what a wonderful journey it has been! Betu, I haven’t been very expressive with my feelings, but let me tell you for once, that you have been an absolutely amazing co-traveller. Whatever I am today, is only and only because of you. You have been my strength and my inspiration. You have been the fuel that kept the furnaces of my passion and idealism burning against all odds. We have shared wonderful times and have made beautiful memories over the years. We have faced tough times with absolute nonchalance. We have roller-coasted through thick and thin, enjoying every single moment of our eventful life journey. Love you forever… and beyond.
Betu, the last few years have not been easy on you or on the kids. All of you stood with my decision to walk away from the Indian Police Service with my head held high, even though I did not know where I would be going. All of you have willingly paid the price for my decision to stake everything I had, in order to become everything that I needed to be, for serving the cause that was larger than all of us.
Betu, the last one year must’ve been unimaginably tough for you. It all started in last August with the vindictive demolition of the legally retrofitted portions of our house without even giving us a fair chance to challenge the grossly illegal demolition. I can only imagine how very painful it must’ve been for you to helplessly watch portions of the home you created and tended with so much love, being pulled down by the supplicant stooges of a thuggish government. This was followed by my arrest in a 24 year old case on completely fabricated evidence. And of course, the icing was the brazenly unjust and arbitrary conviction in a 29 year old case of “Custodial” death that occurred 18 days after the TADA accused was released from police custody. Betu, you have single-handedly faced all these adversities with amazing grace and fortitude. The entire country has seen your strength, courage, determination and resolve to stand up and fight against injustice. Today, India has reached a stage where it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the state represents concentrated and organised violence. Thuggery has been allowed to elevate itself into a technique of governance. The so-called watchdogs of democracy have been tamed into whimpering submission. In these times of all round institutional undermining and systemic subversion, no institution or organisation is safe. The courts of our country are apparently adjudicating, but truth and justice don’t necessarily enter the equation. Betu, you have chosen to stand up and fight against injustice. It’s a choice that comes with a price, I am sure that your exemplary courage will stiffen the spines of many others. May your valiant struggle serve as a beacon of hope in these dark times.
Aakashi, my darling daughter, my little knight – ever ready to tilt at my foes. I can’t help but remember the innumerable times when you would blindly jump to my defence whenever mom and I had a tiff. ☺ Today, even though you are away in Oxford, pursuing your academic career, I know for sure that your heart, mind and spirit are with me. I can only imagine how difficult it must’ve been for you to not come back to India and be a part of my ongoing battle. Baby, as you very well know, this is a battle of my choosing, and I would not want my choices to jeopardize the trajectory of your life. Mom and I are truly blessed to have a loving daughter like you. You have always been, and will always continue to be my Arya Stark. May you find all the love, happiness and success that you so richly deserve.
Shantanu, my running partner, my volleyball buddy and my accomplice in gluttony. Shan, in the last one year, I have seen you transform from the carefree happy-go-lucky lad to the responsible young man standing by mom’s side. I can only wonder how difficult the past one year would have been for her without you by her side. You have been a pillar of strength for mom. Thank you for filling in. Shan, every choice I made had its risks, every choice its consequences… and I have no regrets. I take every slander and every act of persecution as a reaffirmation that I am continuing to walk on the right path against all odds, but at times I feel a little guilty for having thrust this role upon you. Yet, I am very proud to see the man you’ve become. May you continue to spread joy and happiness wherever you go, and achieve whatever you strive for in your life.
Lastly, a few words of heartfelt gratitude for all the brave friends and supporters who have stood by me and my family in these dark times. Each one of you has not only inspired me to be my best, but has also been the source of much needed strength for Shweta. Each one of you has added to her courage. Each one of you has added to her resolve to take on the forces of evil that are threatening to subsume Indian Democracy. The thugs-in-power are trying everything at their disposal to silence or discredit the voices of truth, reason and dissent. These are dark times for the Indian Democracy. But as nightfall doesn’t come all at once, nor does the tyranny of authoritarian repression. Darkness feeds on ignorance and apathy. We, the people of India, stood silently and watched as institution after institution was subverted and undermined to serve the interests of a thuggish regime that thrived on hatred, falsehood and demagoguery. We allowed the idea of the nation to be conflated with an ideology, a political party, or an individual… whereby anyone questioning that idea is automatically branded antinational.
Friends, India is at a tipping point. The choices we make today will determine our fate for the next few decades. None of us can afford to be in the stands anymore. We’ve got to be in the fight. Politics is not a spectator sport. We may avoid politics, but politics will not avoid us. We must resolve to fight these thugs at all levels. Thuggery should never be allowed to elevate itself into a technique of governance. The thugs-in-power will have to be faced down – whatever the price. We will have to make some difficult choices… but in the end, we’re only the sum of the choices we make. If people like you and me aren’t willing to take risks for what we believe in, nothing will ever change. Every time we see the truth and yet choose not to speak, we die in increments. All that needs for evil to take root is that good men do nothing while they still can. Standing up against evil and injustice isn’t compulsory, neither is our survival as a democracy. Hope we find the wisdom and courage to choose correctly. Friends, the sun is setting around Indian Democracy in more ways than one, but with people like you around, India still has hope. When it comes to countering the forces of evil, no acts of resistance is insignificant, no fight is too small to be fought. Even the biggest of avalanches are made up of small things… snowflakes. We shall resist. We shall fight. We shall overcome. That is certain.
With tons and tons of love and gratitude,
I remain – unbowed, unbent, unbroken.
Sanjiv Bhatt IPS
Live with Purpose. Walk the edge. Play hard. Laugh with abandon. Choose with no regret. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.

                                                                                         Place: The Heart of Darkness 

Date: Independence Day 2019

Dear Fellow Indians,

As we join the chorus of celebrations on our 73rd Independence Day, let us pause for a moment and reflect on our journey so far; as well as the direction of our current trajectory. Have we reached anywhere near where we set out for on 15th August 1947? Are we even headed in the right direction? Was Aazadi just about throwing off the colonial yoke? Wasn’t Aazadi about the freedom to question, to challenge, to express, to amend… without fear of state reprisal?

Thanks to our apathy and indifference over the last few decades, we allowed politics to become the resort of choice for thugs. And now, thanks to our ignorance and gullibility, we are allowing nationalism to become the resort of choice for the political thug. Angry, vociferous and muscular nationalism as the sole fiefdom of a political party automatically implies that anyone or any other political party that questions their narrative is antinational. Unfortunately, the idea of nationalism that has gained currency today, is premised on the exclusion of minorities- The Smallest minority being the thinking, rational Indian.

Needless to elaborate, people with low self-esteem and high ignorance are the first to mindlessly scramble towards the construct of a muscular Hindu identity that feeds on aggressive and vociferous nationalism. Today, the muscular nationalism and mobocracy that is thriving under the aegis of the state, silences and snuffs out all voices of social, cultural and political dissent.

When everything else fails, the thugs-in-power fetishize the flag to whip up the gullible middle class into a frenzy of belligerent jingoism. The bulk of the selfproclaimed nationalists and patriots invariably comprises of people with very strong opinions, but very little knowledge of history and almost non-existent capacity for reason – as the bravado of nationalistic fervour blocks out everything else, especially the capacity for reason.

If India has to survive as a functional democracy, every sensible Indian will have to rise above the crowd, try to make his voice heard above the din, and deconstruct the seduction of muscular nationalism that is conveniently used as an opiate to numb and block out reason. We, the people of India, will have to realize once and for all, that the government is not the nation, and being anti-government is not the same as being anti-national.

It is obvious that the current political narrative and rhetoric have not only clouded our capacity for reason, but have also deprived us of our ability to differentiate between good and evil. Today, we are on the threshold of unprecedented darkness. Those of us who will not see this are bigots, those who cannot are fools, and those who dare not are craven slaves.

When the state throttles the voices of its citizens, while the judiciary and legislature watch in impotent silence, whom do you approach for redressal? Whom do you indict, try and sentence? Nothing short of condemning this vile state to death is justice.

Aazadi (freedom), in its true sense, is still a far cry. As Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote: “Freedom is what we do with what is done to us”. Think about it.

Today, we have progressed from the phase of banality of evil, to the phase of audacity of evil. We have miles to go before dawn breaks and the darkness dissolves.

Yeh daagh daagh ujaala, yeh shab gazida seher
(This stained tainted light, this night bitten dawn) Woh intezar tha jiska, yeh woh seher to nahin
(This stained tainted light, this night bitten dawn) Yeh woh seher to nahin, jiski aarzoo lekar
(This is not that morning, in whose yearning)
Chale thay yaar ke mil jaayegi kahin na kahin
(We had set out full of hope that we will surely find)
Falak ke dasth mein taaron ki aakhri manzil
(In the wilderness of the sky, the final destination of stars) Kahin to hoga shab-e-sust mauj ka saahil
(Somewhere the night-weary waves must find their shore)
Kahin to jaa ke rukega safina-e-gham-e-dil
(Some place must be the final halt for the boat of our heart’s sorrows)
Chaley chalo ke who manzil abhi nahi aayi…
(Keep marching, for that destination has not yet arrived)

-Faiz Ahmed Faiz (15th Aug 1947)
Let us continue our march from the darkness to light… Undaunted, undeterred, undefeated. Happy Independence Day!
With lots of love and hope…

                                                                                                        Sanjiv Bhatt  

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