BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal and 2008 Malegaon bomb blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur triggered a major outcry on Friday after she then Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare had died during the 26/11 terror attacks because of her “curse” and his “karma”. Having invited criticism from several quarters across the country for the Karkare remark, which forced the party to issue a statement to clear its stand, newly inducted BJP leader Pragya Thakur later in the day sought to withdraw her comment and apologised.
Thakur is a prime accused in the September 29, 2008 Malegaon blast in which six people were killed and nearly 100 sustained injuries. She has spent many years in jail in connection with the case, and is currently out on bail. Thakur joined the BJP earlier this week and has been fielded from Bhopal to contest the Lok Sabha election against senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.
At a public meeting in the Madhya Pradesh capital on Friday morning, the 48-year-old recounted the episode of her arrest and interrogation.
When she was in a Mumbai jail, Pragya recalled, the head of the probe panel had called Karkare and told him she should be released as there was “no evidence” against her.
“Then Karkare asked me various questions and I replied ‘God knows’. At this, Karkare asked whether he would have to go to the God to get the answers. Then, I told him that he would be destroyed and he was cursed… within a month and a half, he fell victim to the terrorists’ bullets,” Thakur could be heard saying (in Hindi) in a video released by news agency ANI.
Karkare was killed by Ajmal Kasab and another terrorist during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008.
“Hindus believe that a period of one and a half month after anyone’s birth or death is of ritual impurity. When Karkare asked me these questions, this period started for him and ended with him being killed by the terrorists,” said Thakur.
The comments kicked up a major row, with the Indian Police Service Association issuing a statement condemning her remarks. Opposition parties Congress, AAP and AIMIM too attacked Thakur and the BJP over her remarks.
Later in the evening, the BJP issued a statement distancing itself from her comments, saying she made it in her personal capacity, adding her remarks could be borne out of “years of torture” in jail.
Thakur herself came out with a statement after that. “It was my personal pain. I take back my statement and apologise,” she said.
Thakur said she was withdrawing her remarks as she felt “the enemies of the country are being benefited” from it. Calling Karkare a “martyr”, she said she regretted her remarks if they hurt his family.
Thakur was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. She was granted bail by the Bombay High Court in 2017. She was facing charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), which have now been dropped but she is facing trial under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).