Vol. XLIII No. 17 April 28, 2019

A Malign Symbol

PRAGYA Singh Thakur’s nomination as the BJP candidate from Bhopal constituency marks a significant and ominous moment in the 17th Lok Sabha election. This decision of the BJP is a declaration of its real platform for this election – an unapologetic hardline Hindutva with all its negative implications. 

Pragya Thakur is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. She is the alleged kingpin of the group which organised the Malegaon blast.  The chargesheet against her reveals that it was her motorcycle packed with explosives which was used to create the blast which killed six people. 

After the Modi government came to power, all efforts were made to scuttle the case against her. The NIA told the court that there was not enough evidence against her but the court disagreed and charged her under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.  She is now out on bail pending the trial. 

It is such a terror accused who has been made the BJP candidate in Bhopal.  Pragya Thakur, over the years, has made no secret of her rabid Hindutva and Muslim- hating views.

Soon after filing her nomination, Pragya Thakur attacked late Hemant Karkare, the head of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra police who had investigated the Malegaon blast case and arrested Pragya Thakur and her associates.  She said, she had cursed Karkare and, as a result, he died by terrorist bullets within 45 days.  Karkare was a courageous police officer who was martyred in the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 2008. Even after such a shocking statement, the BJP was not willing to condemn it and only stated that it is her personal view probably caused by the torture she had suffered at the hands of the police. 

Unfazed by criticism, Pragya went on to state that she was present on top of the dome when the Babri Masjid was demolished and that she would be present when the Ram temple is built at the spot. 

That Pragya Thakur’s candidature was a well thought out move is evident from the way Narendra Modi has defended her choice.  In an interview, Modi said that her candidature is an answer to those who “defame the 5000 year old civilization that believes in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.  They called them terrorists”.  In an earlier speech in Wardha on April 1, Modi had condemned those who talked of Hindu terror as insulting the Hindu community as a whole.  He had declared, “In the thousand years of history, not a single incident shows an act of Hindu terrorism”.  The absurdity of this claim defies all reason.  From Nathuram Godse to the Gujarat pogrom in 2012 to the killings of Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Lankesh – there is a long trail of Hindutva terror. Underlying these statements is the understanding that terrorists cannot be Hindus but only Muslims. 

The stand of Amit Shah and the BJP is that Pragya Thakur is an innocent sadhvi who has been framed in a false case.  At the same time, the Sangh brigade glorifies her as one who sought to avenge the killings of Hindus. 

Pragya Thakur’s candidature comes in the background of the BJP’s election campaign whose main thrust is communal with the aim of polarising the electorate.  The speeches of the BJP leaders, starting from Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are getting shriller by the day.  Open appeals are made to Hindus to defend themselves from external and internal enemies; barely concealed threats  are issued about the subversive role of the minorities; the armed forces are harnessed for their jingoistic propaganda and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill  and the National Register of Citizens are being set out as a means to eliminate “aliens” as citizens. 

In such a divisive campaign, a terror-suspect and a rabid Muslim hater wearing saffron robes has become a symbol of the BJP-RSS agenda for the election. This again is not entirely new. After all, another Hindu fanatic spouting hate against Muslims – the saffron-wearing Adityanath – was made the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. 

The slogan of sabka saath sabka vikas has been well and truly abandoned.  In its place there is an open Hindutva communal-militaristic-chauvinist appeal. This must alarm even those who still cling on to the belief that Modi stands for development. There is no scope for illusions left.  The only way to save the country is to ensure the defeat of BJP and Modi. 

(April 24, 2019)