By Rajesh Sinha
It has come a full circle for RSS-BJP.
Nathu Ram Godse, the man who committed the first terrorist act in independent India by gunning down Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948, had had RSS links and which the RSS has always denied, saying he had left the organisation before committing the act. This, from an outfit that maintains no register or formal record of its members.
They, still, however, keep giving out statements from their various organs that people should also see why Gandhi ji was murdered.
A similar trend continued during subsequent killings by militant Hindutva elements. When Dara Singh burnt Graham Staines and his family alive, RSS and its affiliates denied he was ever associated with them, though their people said one should also see why the crime was committed.
When cases of ‘Hindutva terror’ or ‘saffron terror’ – as it was variously referred to for some time – came out, the RSS and BJP denied any links with the accused including ‘Sadhvi’ Pragya Thakur and Lt Col Prasad Purohit, but expressed sympathy with the accused and condemned the use of the label on terror, saying ‘terrorism has no religion’. It did not, though, prevent them from continuing to propagate that ‘every Muslim is not a terrorist but every terrorist is a Muslim’.
Now under the BJP led by PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, right at the time of the ongoing 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Pragya Thakur has been welcomed into the BJP, given membership and made the party candidate for membership of the top law-making body of the country with a Constitution whose basic structure makes it a socialist, secular, democratic republic.
It is not because she has been acquitted or given a clean chit that BJP decided on Pragya Thakur; it is because she is an accused in a Hindutva terror case.Thakur is an accused in the Malegaon bomb blast case of September 2008, which is being heard by a National Investigation Agency (NIA) court.
This is stating the party agenda as clearly as was possible. It comes after repeated claims of India being a Hindu rashtra, various campaigns of cow protection and associated incidents of lynching, deliberately picking campaign issues problematic for minorities andregularly finding definitions of nationalism designed to exclude other communities.
After Narendra Modi government took over, among the institutions under threat, the criminal justice system has been compromised like never before. While cow lynching and other hate crimes peaked in this period, the police frequently would register criminal charges against the victims, protecting the attackers instead. Cases of Hindutva terror were weakened so that one by one, the accused have been discharged by courts, always on grounds of shoddy police investigation – Pragya Thakur included.
A prime accused in Malegaon blast case, she is out on bail granted on grounds of health: that she was suffering from cancer and had become too weak to move around.
Now, as per ANI report, a Malegaon blast victim’s father has approached NIA court to bar Sadhvi Pragya Thakur from contesting Lok Sabha poll. The application has questioned her candidature before NIA court citing her health which was one of the reasons in her bail application.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday raised the same point to demand the cancellation of bail given to Pragya Singh Thakur after she was named an election candidate by the BJP.
Abdullah said that Thakur had been given bail on health grounds, and so, if she was fit enough to contest elections, she must be fit enough to be in jail too.
“Since the BJP depends on the religion card when it is left with nothing else, they have now given mandate from Bhopal to someone who is not just a terror accused, but is on bail,” the National Conference leader told reporters after casting his vote in Srinagar. “If her health is not good enough to stay in jail, how can she be fit enough to fight polls?”
Late on Wednesday, Abdullah had called it a “mockery of the legal system” by the BJP. “A person, an under-trial, who stands accused of terrorism; out on bail on health grounds but clearly healthy enough to fight elections in the crippling summer heat,” he tweeted. “Hindutva rules!”
Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti had also lashed out at the BJP on Wednesday and tweeted, “Imagine the anger if I’d field a terror accused.”
In April 2017, the Bombay High Court had accepted Thakur’s bail plea, and had said that the offences alleged against her were grave but it cannot be said that there are reasonable grounds to believe that they were prima facie true.
According to a report in The Hindu, the court had also said that Thakur is a woman and had been in jail for more than eight years and was suffering from breast cancer. Her medical reports showed that she had become infirm and could not walk without support, the court had observed.
The Malegaon blast case was first probed by Maharashtra anti-terrorist squad. The NIA took over the case in 2011.
The NIA, in its chargesheet filed in 2016, said the witnesses on whose testimony a case was made out against her had retracted their statements. The court, however, rejected the NIA’s plea to drop charges against Thakur.
Her acquittal that BJP and Hindutva circles talk about was in a murder case of RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi, and it was due to shoddy investigation and lack of evidence produced in court.Joshi, once a close aide of the Sadhvi before they fell out over some dispute, was shot dead here on 29 December, 2007 in Audyogik Police station area in Dewas.
Joshi, once a close aide of the Sadhvi before they fell out over some dispute, was shot dead here on 29 December, 2007 in Audyogik Police station area in Dewas.
In a stinging observation about NIA, (according to previous media reports), Judge Rajeev M Apteof the First Additional Sessions Court in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, acquitting Pragya Singh Thakur along with seven others the murder case, said [translated]:
“For reasons not known to the court, the Industrial Area Police of Madhya Pradesh Police and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) appears prejudiced and have conducted a non-serious investigation in such a sensitive case like murder and have gathered weak and contradictory evidence. The evidence is inadequate to convict the accused.”
Apart from Pragya, Harshad Solanki, Rajendra Chaudhri, Lokesh Sharma, Vasudev Parmar and Anand Raj Kataria were accused of committing Joshi’s murder. Ramcharan and Jeetendra were accused of destroying the possibly incriminating evidence, the order stated.
The court said the state police and NIA conducted the probe with “prejudice” and produced “weak and self-contradictory evidences”.
In Samjhauta train blast case, while acquitting Aseemanand and some others, the trial court made similar observations about NIA failing to produce the most crucial pieces of evidence. Modi nevertheless went to town claiming that the acquittal exposed the alleged conspiracy hatched by the Congress to defame the Hindu community.
“How can the Congress be forgiven for insulting the Hindus in front of the world?” he asked audiences in his election rally in Wardha, Maharashtra, on April 1. “Weren’t you hurt when you heard the word ‘Hindu terror’?”
He added, rhetorically: “How can a community known for peace, brotherhood and harmony be linked with terrorism?…In the thousand years of history, not a single incident shows an act of Hindu terrorism.”
As some have pointed out earlier, Modi forgot that Mahatma Gandhi and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were killed by Hindu terrorists and that Gandhi’s assassin was strongly influenced by the ideology of the RSS.
Modi also ignored the fact that while Aseemanand and some of his co-accused did get acquitted in the Samjhauta train blasts case, other Hindu militants did get convicted in the larger conspiracy.
Aseemanand was acquitted in Ajmer Dargah blast case with six others, giving them the “benefit of doubt”, but Devendra Gupta, Bhavesh Patel and Sunil Joshi were convicted under various sections, for “conspiracy, planting bombs and inciting religious sentiments”. The court awarded life sentences to two of them – Gupta and Patel, along with the late right-wing activist Sunil Joshi.
Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kalasangra, both RSS functionaries and accused as conspirators in the blasts cases, continue to be absconding.
Pragya Thakur comes from the same group of people.