OPINION | Is Pragya Thakur the Real Face of BJP?
PM Modi has fielded and supported Thakur unabashedly, calling her the symbolic response in defence of the “Hindu civilization” which is supposedly being demeaned by his opponents.
BJP candidate Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur waves at supporters during her election campaign for Lok Sabha polls, at Sewaniya Gond in Bhopal (PTI)
When the BJP announced Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, who is out on bail for “health reasons”, as its candidate from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, a key shift took place in Indian electoral politics. And now, there's no stopping the self-proclaimed 'Sadhvi’, who was already infamous for her unabashed verbal threats.
Pragya Thakur was arrested after six people were killed and over 100 injured in a bomb blast at Malegaon on September 29, 2008. The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had alleged that a Hindu extremist group carried out the blast. The NIA later gave Pragya Thakur a clean chit, but the court did not discharge her.
The BJP, however, is adamant that Pragya Thakur was ‘framed’. An appeal against her bail is pending before the Supreme Court and she has repeatedly exempted herself from attending the trial on the grounds of ill health. Clearly, she is fit enough to contest elections but not to attend court. There can be only one explanation for this: Her confidence on the Prime Minister and BJP president Amit Shah. We can imagine the terror and fear that is being felt by the witnesses and victims of the Malegaon blast since the accused has been given a ticket for the Lok Sabha elections by the ruling party and there hardly seems any possibility of a fair trial under such circumstances.
The attempts by the ruling party to save Pragya Thakur became known as soon as the government changed at the Centre in 2014. The then special prosecutor Rohini Salian came out publicly to say that there was pressure on her to ‘save’ the accused.
Is the woman facing trial for terrorism indispensable to the ruling party that they are leaving no stone unturned to place her in the Parliament of India? Recently, Pragya Thakur was quoted saying that it was her curse that took the life of Hemant Karkare, the Mumbai Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) chief who died fighting terrorists during the 26/11 Mumbai attack. She said, “I told him ‘You will be destroyed,’ and just over a month later, terrorists killed him.” Ashok Chakra awardee late Sri Hemant Karkare sacrificed his life-fighting terrorists. Thakur's regrettable statement demeaned the service of more than 35,000 police personnel who we owe a huge debt of gratitude.
Pragya Thakur, while reacting to Makkal Needhi Maiyam founder Kamal Haasan’s speech at a recent poll rally in Tamil Nadu, said that Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi was, in fact, a patriot. In her own words, “Nathuram Godse ek deshbhakt the, hain aur rahenge [Nathuram Godse was a patriot, is a patriot and will always be one].” The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was carried out by Godse to send out a message of fear, hatred and divide.
PM Modi has fielded and supported Thakur unabashedly, calling her the symbolic response in defence of the “Hindu civilization” which is supposedly being demeaned by his opponents. In his interview with TimesNow, he said that “Sadhvi Pragya’s candidature from Bhopal is a symbolic answer to all those who did this (created propaganda around Saffron terror), and this symbol will prove costly to the Congress.”
In approving the candidature of Thakur, the Bharatiya Janata Party have made clear that every signal to intimidate India’s minorities, particularly Muslims, from whom they expect supplication, is more than welcome. As many as 2,920 “communal incidents” were reported in India over four years ending 2017, ever since BJP came to power, in which 389 people were killed and 8,890 injured, according to the home ministry’s reply in the Lok Sabha on 6 February 2018 and 7 February 2017. A BJP legislator from Uttar Pradesh Surendra Singh has been quoted saying that people who do not chant Vande Mataram have "no right to live in India" and should be sent to Pakistan. But surprisingly when Pragya Thakur insulted a martyr or called Gandhiji's assassin a patriot, the party chose to safely call it her "personal opinion".
By bringing people like Pragya Thakur to the headlines, BJP has conveniently shifted the national dialogue from real concerns like unemployment, education and health to the politics of hate, communal divide and discrimination on the basis of caste, religion and place of birth. Hindutva goons have repeatedly tried to suffocate freedom of speech and dissent all around the country, getting a free pass from the National leadership of BJP. We're being robbed of our democratic identity through systematic efforts of polarizing the country through fear.
Every misguided communal tool to oppress minorities is being given a face and position of power, along with protection and promotion of every kind, violating the core constitutional principle of secularism that our country was built on. And when educated women like Madhu Purnima unapologetically defend statements by leaders like Pragya Thakur, it breaks my heart and my concern for India's tomorrow grows.
(The author is the national general secretary of All India Mahila Congress. She is the first transgender office bearer of the Congress party.)
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