New Delhi: By fielding Shadvi Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, the BJP made it clear that the saffron party is seeking votes deliberately pushing forward its hardcore Hindutva agenda, but not purely on basis of the performances and achievements of the Modi government in the last five years. There has been widespread outcry across the nation ever since the BJP announced her candidature as she is seen as the prime accused and principal conspirator behind the September 2008 blast at Malegaon, in which six persons were killed and hundreds injured. Sadhvi Pragya’s highly controversial statement about slain IPS officer Hemant Karkare, who was awarded the India’s highest peacetime gallantry award ‘Ashoka Chakra’ posthumously, that the police officer died because she cursed him - what in her words ‘Tera sarvanash hoga’, has now further escalated the public anger with strong condemnation not only from the police fraternity, but also from within the BJP.
Karkare was a brave police officer, who gave his life fighting for the country. The country considers him a martyr. Thakur had been arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terror squad on terror charges and Hemant Karkare headed the ATS at that time. Painful memories of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, in which 166 people died, were revived as the Shadvi made a reference to late senior cop Hemant Karkare who died in the line of duty when terror struck the city in 2008.
In August 2014, the National Human Rights Commission ordered a probe into Sadhvi’s allegations of torture when she was in jail for almost nine years from October 2008 to April 2017. In its report in 2015, the Commission found that the charges were “not substantiated by facts or evidence collected by the inquiry commission from the prison, courts, and the hospital where Pragya was admitted”. Earlier, the Supreme Court had also remarked in 2011 that Pragya had been examined by doctors at two hospitals and that they did not find any injury marks on her. So, the allegation of torture by the BJP leader is not substantiated.
It is really unfortunate that the Shadvi had made shameful statement about a person who is no longer alive to defend himself. Her statement is an insult to other police officers who have sacrificed their lives in the performance of their duties.
Earlier this week, a group of 71 retired civil servants have expressed strong disbelief and dismay at the candidature of Pragya Thakur and said that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot “escape the irony of his party seeking votes in the name of fighting terrorism and at the same time endorsing the candidature of a person accused of terror crimes.”
Thakur as a candidate could have been dismissed “as yet another example of political expediency but for the enthusiastic endorsement by no less a person than the Prime Minister, who had termed her candidature as a symbol of our civilisational heritage, they have mentioned in an open letter to the Prime Minister.
“The candidature of Pragya Thakur is not a symbol of our civilisational heritage. Our heritage is not that of acts of terrorism. It is not of majoritarianism, but of celebrating our diversity. It is of tolerance, fraternity and of the unifying spirit of the Constitution of India”, the retired IPS officers said.
After facing strong reactions to her statement, the BJP MP candidate retracted it and apologized, though she prefaced her apology by stating that she was taking back her statement because the “enemies of the country were being benefited from it”. It was not an unconditional apology of the BJP leader and she continues to make controversial statements each passing day.
Though, Pragya Thakur is not the first sanyasin to have received the patronization of the BJP and RSS, but at the moment she assumes significant to the saffron party to the boundaries of Hindutva beyond Madhya Pradesh, known as laboratory of Hindutva in the northern Indian politics. The saffron party previously promoted Uma Bharti, another Shadvi from Madhya Pradesh to polarize the voters on the basis of religion.
In a desperate bid to quell the anti-incumbency factor through aggressive Hindutva nationalism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended the nomination of Pragya Thakur from Bhopal, stating that her candidature is a symbolic answer to all those who labeled the rich Hindu civilization as “terrorist”.
As a matter of fact, Modi cannot escape the resent of the people despite his tall claims. A person accused of a ‘terrorist act’ and against whom charges have been framed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is being fielded as a candidate, by a party that wants to underscore its anti-terrorism credentials.
While many candidates may have criminal cases pending against them, it is highly unusual to find among mainstream party contestants one who has been accused of planting a bomb targeting a community. And the BJP had achieved the dubious distinction for promoting a terror accused like Pragya Thakur.
By fielding the firebrand sanyasin, the BJP has certainly offended the feelings and sensibilities of the people, especially the moderate sections of the society. It may prove costly for the BJP in the ongoing elections.