BJP's Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal, Pragya Thakur, faces charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and awaits trial. The charges relate to a bomb going off in Malegaon, Maharashtra, in 2008 – that killed 6 people.
Arresting her was Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare who died in the line of duty, shot by Pakistani terrorists in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Karkare was certain that Thakur was involved. He had a long and illustrious career which was topped with cracking serial bombing cases in Maharashtra. He, despite his martyrdom, has been the target of multiple attacks from the extreme right, and that has just picked up pace, with the announcement of Pragya Thakur as the candidate for Bhopal.
Since her arrest in 2008, there has been investigation into her activities in being part of a small hub of terror that was accused of launching attacks on Indian soil, against Indian citizens. In the decade that has passed, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) dropped charges against her under the draconian MOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act; the National Investigation Agency court declined following suit under the UAPA. So, contrary to popular propaganda she is not absolved of the charges, but still faces trial. Thakur has alleged custodial torture and ill treatment while in custody. While the National Human Rights Commission found no such evidence, it is a believable claim – because the Indian police has an unfortunate track record of violating human rights. While one feels sorry that Thakur faced violence in custody, it does not take away from the charges filed against her.
The BJP is, of course, free to choose the most suitable candidates that it thinks represents its values and principles. However, for a party that claims to be strong on terror, and pro the people in uniform, this is indeed a surprising choice. It has managed to polarise voters, but not in the way the BJP hoped. Of course, there will be some degree of consolidation of votes of those who believe in Thakur’s ideology. However, for a great many Indians, Hemant Karkare is a hero. A hero who died in the line of duty. And, it is Karkare’s body of work in cracking home grown terror attacks on Indian soil that led to Thakur's arrest. No matter how much twitter trolls cast aspersions on Karkare’s life and track record, it is not making a dent on the silent outrage at the attacks on him.
In attacking Karkare, and claiming that his death was caused by her ‘curse’, Thakur proved that she does not just have delusions of sainthood, but also lacks the political instinct that would prevent her from making such utterances.
Ultimately whether Pragya Thakur represents the people of Bhopal in Parliament, or not, depends on the voters of Bhopal. It less a battle between Pragya Thakur and Digvijay Singh as it is a battle between Pragya Thakur and the ghost of Hemant Karkare.
Harini Calamur writes on politics, gender and her areas of interest are the intersection of technology, media, and audiences.