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News18 » Politics
3-min read

Meet Pragya Thakur: Sanyasin at 14, Terror Suspect, Cancer Fighter & Now, BJP's Pick Against Digvijaya Singh

As the battle lines are drawn, it’s widely believed that Sadhvi Pragya Thakur with her ‘hard Hindutva’ would give a tough fight to Congress’ Digvijaya Singh who has been pedaling with ‘soft Hindutva’ off late.

Vivek Trivedi | News18

Updated:April 17, 2019, 7:25 PM IST
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Meet Pragya Thakur: Sanyasin at 14, Terror Suspect, Cancer Fighter & Now, BJP's Pick Against Digvijaya Singh
File photo of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur. (PTI)

Bhopal: The 2019 Lok Sabha election is witnessing several riveting battles with one of them being seen in the capital of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, where the BJP has named Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blast case, against Congress’ Digvijaya Singh, who has recently turned to ‘soft Hindutva’ after being targeted for minority appeasement.

The former Union minister welcomed his opponent with a tweet as he geared up for a tough fight from Thakur and her hard Hindutva.

“It’s a ‘dharmyuddh’ and only the dharma would emerge victorious,” Thakur said as she set the tone of her electoral battle. “We need to fight and win against those who work against the rashtra (nation),” she said.

Thakur, born in Kachhwaha village of Bhind district in the Chambal ravines of Madhya Pradesh, was mostly known as a religious preacher and sanyasin till 2008 when she landed in the Maharashtra anti-terror squad (ATS)’s custody for her alleged role in the Malegaon blasts.

Born to an Ayurvedic physician, Dr Chandrapal Singh, who treated patients for free and read religiously read the Bhagwad Gita, Thakur developed a deep interest in the Hindu philosophy and spiritual world since a tender age and became an ascetic at 14.

A daring and aggressive girl, Thakur, clad in jeans and shirts and sporting tomboyish looks, used to move around on a bike and remained involved in social endeavours aimed at the betterment of women. She was also known for beating up men who harassed women.

Locals in Bhind claim Thakur had also set up an organisation, named Jai Vande Mataram Jan Kalyan Samiti, which was reportedly involved in ‘rescuing’ girls who eloped with boys of other communities.

Under Swami Avadheshanand Giri, a seer who had several influential politicians among his followers, she remoulded herself in a new avatar: Sadhvi Purna Chetanand Giri Sharma.

Later, she set up the Rashtriya Jagran Manch in Indore. A powerful orator, Thakur soon became popular as a preacher holding religious conclaves.

By the time she completed her post-graduation in history from Lahar in Bhind, she was deeply influenced by the saffron ideology and joined the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the RSS youth wing. She also had served in the Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of Bajrang Dal.

As her popularity grew, BJP started inviting her for campaigns. Around that time, an MLA is also said to have proposed to her, but the young sadhvi declined the advances and she had devoted her life to a greater cause.

Thakur’s life took an unpleasant turn in 2008 after the blasts in Malegaon in Maharashtra when the ATS arrested her for her alleged involvement in the serial blasts.

A bike registered in her name was found from the blast site and Thakur was arrested two days after the blasts on September 29. Her Jabalpur-based rented accommodation was also searched by the ATS.

Thakur had, however, maintained that she had sold the two-wheeler to RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi years ago. She was also named as an accused in Joshi’s murder in 2008. But, she got a clean chit in the case in 2017.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) cleared Thakur’s name in the Malegaon case and she was granted bail in 2016.

The sadhvi had, however, alleged extreme torture and abuse while in custody. She was also diagnosed with breast cancer and several other ailments during that time and spent several years at the Bhopal-based Ayurvedic College. She had even wrote to the President of India against custodial torture.

BJP leader Uma Bharti, who had openly spoken about Thakur’s innocence after her arrest, had even offered her a ticket for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly election in 2008.

Thakur continues to walks with some discomfort and needs help climbing the stairs.

Hum taiyar hain, ab usi kaam me lag gaye hain (I am ready and have engaged myself in the goal,” Thakur said as she came to the BJP office to attend a party meeting in the afternoon on Wednesday.

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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