Former Gujarat police chief Sanjiv Bhatt, who is serving life imprisonment in a 30-year-old custodial death case, has written a letter to his family from prison, acknowledging their role in his decision to serve a “cause that was larger than all of us”. His wife Shweta shared the letter on social media.

“Whatever I am today, is only and only because of you,” Sanjiv Bhatt told his wife in the letter. “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. Love you forever… and beyond.”

Bhatt said the last few years had not been easy on his wife or children. “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,” he said. “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.”

The former IPS officer said the last year was the toughest. “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,” he said. “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.”

Bhatt said this was followed by his arrest in a 24-year-old case based on 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,” he added.

The former police chief said the state in India today represents “concentrated and organised violence”. “Thuggery has been allowed to elevate itself into a technique of governance,” he said. “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.”

Bhatt also thanked his daughters and his friends for their support. “Each one of you has added to her [Shweta Bhatt’s] resolve to take on the forces of evil that are threatening to subsume Indian Democracy,” he told his friends. “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.”

The former IPS officer claimed that India is “at a tipping point”. “The choices we make today will determine our fate for the next few decades,” he said. “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.”

Bhatt said that India now has to make some difficult choices. “If people like you and me aren’t willing to take risks for what we believe in, nothing will ever change,” he said. “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.”

Bhatt, who took on then-Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi over his alleged complicity in the 2002 riots, was given the life sentence in June by a sessions court in Jamnagar. The prosecution had alleged that Bhatt, as an additional superintendent of police in Jamnagar in 1990, had detained more than 100 people in connection with a communal riot and one of them died in hospital after he was released.