Malegaon bomb blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur on Friday caused an uproar by attacking the late Mumbai police officer Hemant Karkare, who was killed by terrorists during the 26/11 attack, prompting calls for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to withdraw her nomination for the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat.
A video in which Thakur is heard cursing Karkare at a public meeting in Bhopal went viral on Friday. Thakur said she had cursed Karkare when the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer was interrogating her about the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast, which killed six people and injured 100.
Thakur later sought to clarify her remark and said she was withdrawing her statement. “It was my personal anguish that I expressed. There was no intention to disrespect the martyrs. I respect all martyrs and their sacrifice," she said.
In the video, Thakur, who is yet to file her nomination papers for the 12 May election, said Karkare, who was then the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad chief, had falsely implicated her in the Malegaon blast case and subjected her to torture during interrogation.
“Maine kaha tera sarvanaash hoga. Theek sava mahine mein sutak lagta hai. Jis din main gayi thi theek usi din iske sutak lag gaya tha. Aur theek sava mahine mein jis din atankwadiyon ne isko maara us din uska anth hua (I had told him that he will be destroyed. Sutak (a period of abstention in Hindu tradition after a death or birth in a family) comes into force within one and a quarter month. It came into force the day I was arrested. And exactly one and a quarter month later he was killed by the terrorists," the video shows Thakur as saying.
Incumbent BJP MP from Bhopal, Alok Sanjar, and the BJP’s Bhopal city mayor, Alok Sharma, were seen on stage with Thakur when she made the remarks.
Karkare and two other senior Mumbai police officers, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar, were killed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in Mumbai on 26 November 2008 during the strikes in Mumbai. Karkare was investigating the Malegaon blast case at that time.
A motorcycle laden with explosives was traced to Surat in Gujarat by its registration plate and later to Thakur, who owned it. However, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the probe in 2011, exonerated Thakur in 2016. A special NIA court refused to uphold the exoneration and ordered in 2017 that she would face trial under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. In October 2018, the NIA court framed fresh charges against Thakur and six others.
Thakur is yet to file her nomination, but has been declared by the BJP as its candidate for the constituency where the Congress has fielded veteran leader Digvijay Singh. The last date for filing of nomination is 23 April.
The Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the IPS Association of India have expressed outrage at her comment. Thakur had insulted not only Karkare but all martyrs and Maharashtra, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant and his NCP counterpart Nawab Malik said at a joint press meet. They demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and asked him to cancel her nomination.
“Ashok Chakra awarded late Shri 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 are respected," the IPS Association said.
On Friday, the Election Commission said Thakur was only an accused and not a convict.