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BJP's Sadhvi Pragya says Hemant Karkare was 'cursed': Party's stand on slain ATS chief has flip-flopped since 2006

"Woh desh-drohi tha, woh dharm-virudh tha", Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur said on Friday of slain Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare, reiterating the Hindu extremists' vitriolic stand against the IPS officer whose investigation into the blast case had unearthed a Hindutva terror network in the country and introduced the terms "Hindu terror" and "saffron terror" for the first time.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s decision to field Thakur from Bhopal for the ongoing Lok Sabha election seems to have given legitimacy to the extremists' anger against Karkare for investigating and arresting several prominent Hindutva leaders and some members of the Indian Army. The Karkare-Thakur standoff has completed a full circle since her arrest in connection with the case in October 2008 and Karkare's death in the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008.

On Friday, Pragya, who was addressing a gathering as part of her election campaign said that Karkare had died because he had been "cursed" for his investigation into the Malegaon case. She also alleged that Karkare had apparently said that he does not need evidence against the BJP candidate to prove her crime in court of law.

"ATS took me from Surat to Mumbai on 10 October, 2008. I was a hostage for 13 days. Male ATS personnel tortured me a lot during this time. Karkare was cursed by the sannyasis and just 45 days after I went to jail he was killed by terrorists in 26/11 terror attacks."

 BJPs Sadhvi Pragya says Hemant Karkare was cursed: Partys stand on slain ATS chief has flip-flopped since 2006

File photo of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur. PTI

Ever since the announcement of her candidature on 17 April, Pragya has been dialing up the Hindutva rhetoric, saying that she was ready for a "Dharm Yudh (religious battle)". "I am ready to take on Digvijaya Singh if the sanghatan (organisation, apparently referring to the BJP) asks me to do so," PTI quoted her as saying.

Hindutva extremism from fringe to mainstream

Analysts argue that the BJP's support for Pragya — not only as an ideological partner but also as a political player — unmasks a new emergence of the party's approach to Hindutva. Pragya was considered a "fringe force" at the beginning of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's tenure and has now become the face of the mainstream political ideology of the party, this Firstpost report says.

"There could be no better mainstreaming of the politically impatient Hindu, for whom violence is no longer a strict no-no. Those believing in Hammurabi's modified credo — bomb-for-bomb — need not lurk in dark alleys any more, but can march in daylight on New Delhi's broad avenues which go right up to Parliament," the report says. "In the coming years, more of Thakur's kind — the new-age Hindutva mascots — can be expected to be inducted into mainstream electoral politics."

With backing for anti-minority, hyper-nationalistic sentiments from the highest in the political hierarchy, (refer to BJP president Amit Shah's blatantly communal statement promising to root out "all" infiltrators "except Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists" at an election rally), Pragya has taken the BJP vs Karkare fight to a new low.

'Villain in life, hero in death': BJP's flip-flop on Hemant Karkare

Karkare's last days before he was shot dead by terrorists who lay siege on Mumbai in the November 2008 terror attacks were replete with threats from Hindu leaders, including the BJP's then prime ministerial candidate LK Advani, against his family and himself. He was at the receiving end of a poisonous attack from BJP and Shiv Sena leaders, alleging that the Maharashtra ATS investigation into the Malegaon blasts was "biased".

According to this report, "The BJP, RSS and VHP leaders, among others from the Hindu nationalist brigade, accused the ATS of being on a witch-hunt, with some even demanding that ATS officers be subjected to a narco-analysis to establish their motives. No less a leader than the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, LK Advani, had demanded a change in the ATS team and a judicial inquiry into the torture allegations made by Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a key suspect in the Malegaon case."

Modi, then the Gujarat chief minister, launched an almost slanderous attack on Karkare and called him a "desh-drohi (traitor). However, Modi visited Karkare's grieving family after his death and also only a few days after his accusation against the IPS officer.

"...but the two parties are now singing eulogies to the valour demonstrated by the departed ATS chief," the report said, noting that BJP and the Sangh Parivar organisations had "personally blamed" Karkare for allegedly "implicating the Hindu religious leaders and outfits" in the probe.

After Modi's visit to Karkare's family, some reports claimed that Karkare's widow Kavita had repeatedly refused to meet Modi and also turned down an offer for financial compensation. However, others claimed that even though Modi had, in fact, paid a visit uninvited, he had not made an offer of compensation.

"Thakur's nomination has pushed the BJP campaign to a point of no return. Categorical corroboration of this comes in the form of Thakur's words when asked what will be her plank in the polls — Bhagwa ko samman (respect for the saffron colour) topped her list of promises."

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Apr 19, 2019 15:15:56 IST