Pragya Singh Thakur, BJP Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal, triggered a firestorm Friday saying Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, killed in the line of duty during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, died because she had cursed him “tera sarvanash hoga”.
After her remarks drew all-round condemnation and the BJP distanced itself saying it was her “personal statement” and that Karkare was a “martyr”, she retracted the remarks. “I felt that the enemies of the country were being benefited… therefore, I take back my statement and apologise for it. It was my personal pain,” she told ANI.
“They have started legal action saying I don’t have the right to contest election and my bail should be cancelled. The only solace is they have not demanded that I be hanged… even if I am in jail, I will win,” she said.
In 2008, Thakur was arrested by the ATS, then headed by Karkare, for her alleged role in the Malegaon blast that left six dead and 101 injured. A key accused in the case, she is facing trial and is currently out on bail.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer V L Kantha Rao told The Indian Express that their media monitoring cell has taken cognizance of her remarks. “We have taken cognizance. We are examining it,’’ he said, adding that the matter will be referred to the Election Commission. “We will take a call on it, may be by tomorrow,’’ he said.
At a meeting of BJP workers in Bhopal, Thakur alleged Karkare did not release her even though he did not have any evidence against her and was ready to go to any extent to find proof. “Yeh uski kutilta thi. Ye deshdroh tha. Yeh dharma virudhh tha. Jab wo mujhse puchhta, tamam saare prashna karta tha: ‘kyun aisa kyu hua vaisa kyun hua’ (It was his deviousness, it was treason. It was against the faith. He would ask me all sorts of questions: ‘why did this happen, how did this happen’).”
She said she would tell him only god would know. “He would ask, do I need to go to god to get the answers. I would say if you think it’s required, you should definitely go.’’ She said she told him “you will have some difficulty, you will take some time but you will be finished. I was tortured. The filthy abuses were unbearable”.
She said she cursed him: “Maine kaha tera sarvanash hoga (I said you will be destroyed).” She said a death or birth at anyone’s place is followed by “sutak” (inauspicious period). “Jis din mei gayi thi uss din iski sutak lag gaya tha, aur theek sava mahine main jis din isko aatankwadiyon ne mara, uss din sutak ka ant hua (The day I went to jail, the inauspicious period started. Exactly a month and quarter later, when he was killed by terrorists, the inauspicious period ended),’’ she said.
She said sanyasis killed Ravan, and Kansa was killed by Lord Krishna because he put saints in jail. “Similar demonic powers ruled in 2008 and the truth dawned on me when I went to jail. When the Congress worked against religion, he held the reins and innocent saints (pointing to herself) were jailed. I said the regime will end. It will be finished. I am the living proof,” she said.
Thakur’s rival candidate Digvijaya Singh of the Congress said: “Hemant Karkare was a dedicated officer. He laid down his life for the country and we should be proud of him. No one should comment on it.” Congress president Rahul Gandhi said: “Hemant Karkare gave his life protecting India. He must be treated with respect.”
The BJP distanced itself from Thakur’s remarks. In a statement, BJP national media in-charge Anil Baluni said: “The BJP firmly believes that the late Shri Hemant Karkare died while bravely fighting terrorists. The BJP has always considered him a martyr. As far as the issue of Sadhvi Pragya’s statement is concerned, it is her personal statement which she might have given because of the years of physical and mental torture she faced.”
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said: “Late Hemant Karkare was a very brave and upright police officer and will be revered and remembered forever as a martyr. Sadhvi Pragya’s remark is a personal opinion and we don’t support it. She has also apologised and stated that it was out of her personal trauma and pain. However, I feel that such statements should never be made. Such statements cannot be justified.”
Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal said: “Disgraceful comments by BJP’s Bhopal Lok Sabha candidate Pragya Thakur on 26/11 martyr Hemant Karkareji need to be condemned in strongest terms. BJP is showing its true colours & it must be shown its place now.”
Former J&K Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti hit out at the BJP. “I think these are the worst days for our country that you are giving such choice of candidates to the people who use such language against a martyr like Hemant Karkare,” she told reporters in Srinagar.
The Central Indian Police Service (IPS) Association condemned Thakur’s remarks. “Ashok Chakra awardee late Sri Hemant Karkare, IPS made the supreme sacrifice fighting terrorists. Those of us in uniform condemn the insulting statement made by a candidate and demand that sacrifices of all our martyrs be respected,” it said in a statement.
— With ENS in New Delhi, Mumbai