Indian candidate out on bail starts campaign with apology

A Hindu monk who joined India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) this week to contest a key election opened her campaign with an apology for calling a martyr an anti-national and claiming her curse killed him.  

The controversial comments caused wide outrage forcing the saffron-clad Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, above, to take back her words uttered in a different context on Hemant Karkare, a top police officer, who died in the Mumbai terror attack on 26 November 2008.

Pragya said she is withdrawing her comments since it may make the enemy (Pakistan) happy.

Karkare, who died fighting the terrorists from Pakistan, is indeed a martyr, she said.

BJP, which announced Pragya’s candidature from central India’s Bhopal only on Thursday, distanced itself from her comment by calling it ‘personal’ based on her experience.

Pragya, one of the seven accused in the September 2008 Malegaon blast case, spent nearly nine years in jail and her comments came while sharing her experience as a prisoner with BJP workers in Bhopal on Thursday.

Out on bail on health grounds, she told party workers that Karkare’s insults during interrogations caused her so much pain that she cursed him. More than a month later, he was killed by Pakistani terrorists who arrived in Mumbai by sea.

Pragya described how law enforcing agencies illegally confined her for the first 13 days and beat her every day until her hands bled.                                                            

She alleged they tortured her in the most shameful manner to extract confession for a crime she had never committed. They mocked her religion and called her a terrorist.

She claimed that after being subjected to several narco, polygraph, and brain-mapping tests during which chemicals were injected into her body, she was diagnosed with cancer.

Law enforcement agencies even threatened to stage an encounter to kill her, Pragya said.

These incidents happened when the Congress party was ruling the country. Its leaders showed no concern for her as they were busy in building a narrative of “Hindu terror” on Malegaon blast. Among them was former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Digvijay Singh against whom she is now contesting. Bhopal goes to polls on May 12.

Pragya sees her poll challenge as a war of righteousness. According to her, the opposition parties are blinded by ignorance and hate against the BJP and its cultural and ideological mentor, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to which she belongs.

According to her, these parties go soft on real terrorists and separatists who try to divide and destroy India and harp on the so-called ‘Hindu terror’.  

They are using her candidature as a weapon to target BJP in the middle of the phased elections.

Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and National Conference leader, said if Pragya is medically fit to fight the election, she should better face trial and return to jail.

Another former chief minister Mehabooba Mufti condemned BJP’s move to field Pragya. Mufti wondered how BJP would have responded had she fielded a terrorist in the Kashmir valley.

In the meantime, A Malegaon blast victim’s father Nisar Sayeed has moved a court seeking ban on Pragya from contesting the election.

Sayeed said Pragya should attend court proceedings in Mumbai.

The Election Commission, which is monitoring speeches, interviews and tweets by candidates for any violation of the model code of conduct, has taken note of Pragya’s comments.