I wrote on the candidature of Pragya Thakur, and the sacrifice of Hemant Karkare in CNBC TV18
Imagine a person arrested for terror. Imagine now that he or she had a Muslim sounding name. Imagine also that they are out on bail – which is itself a leap of imagination because Muslims on terror charges possibly won’t get bail – but, still try and imagine. And, imagine now that the Indian National Congress gave this person a ticket to run for parliament. Now imagine certain prime time anchors dealing with this news event. There would have been a media melt down. Anchors, frothing at the mouth, would have railed against the anti-national party that gives a suspected terrorist a ticket for parliament. Leaders of the BJP would have gleefully dug into this news item and milked it for all it was worth. Most voters would have looked at the news with incredulity, and disgust. Afterall, who wants to be associated with someone who is accused of terror charges?
And, yet al this seems to break down when it comes to Pragya Thakur. Ms Thakur faces charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and awaits trial. The charges relate to a bomb going off in Malegaon, Maharashtra, in 2008 – that killed 6 people. Arresting her was Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed by Pakistani terrorists in the 26/11 attack. Karkare was certain that Ms Thakur was involved. Mr Karkare had a long and illustrious career which was topped with cracking serial bombing cases in Maharashtra. He, despite his martyrdom, has been the target of multiple attacks from the extreme right, and that has just picked up pace, with the announcement of Pragya Thakur as the candidate for Bhopal.
Since her arrest in 2008, there has been investigation into her activities in being part of a small hub of terror that was accused of launching attacks on Indian soil, against Indian citizens. In the decade that has passed, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) dropped charges against her under the draconian MOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act; the National Investigation Agency court declined following suit under the UAPA. So, contrary to popular propaganda she is not absolved of the charges, but still faces trial. Ms Thakur has alleged custodial torture, and ill treatment while in custody. And, while the National Human Rights Commission had found no evidence of it, it is a believable claim – because the Indian police has an unfortunate track record of violating human rights. While one feels sorry that Ms Thakur faced violence in custody, it does not take away from the charges filed against her.
The BJP is, of course, free to choose the most suitable candidates that it thinks represents its values and principles. However, for a party that claims to be strong on terror, and pro the people in uniform, this is indeed a surprising choice. It has managed to polarise voters, but not in the way the BJP hopes. Of course, there will be some degree of consolidation of votes of those who believe in Ms.Thakur’s ideology. However, for a great many Indians, Hemant Karkare was a hero. A hero who died in the line of duty. And, it is Karkare’s body of work in cracking home grown terror attacks on Indian soil that led to Thakur being arrested. No matter how much twitter trolls cast aspersions on Karkare’s life and track record, it is not making a dent on the silent outrage at the attacks on him.
In attacking Karkare, and claiming that his death was caused by her ‘curse’, Pragya Thakur proved that she does not just have delusions of sainthood, but also lacks the political instinct that would prevent her from making such utterances.
Ultimately whether Pragya Thakur represents the people of Bhopal in Parliament, or not, depends on the voters of Bhopal. It less a battle between Pragya Thakur and Digvijay Singh as it is a battle between Pragya Thakur and the ghost of Hemant Karkare. Bhopal has to make the choice whom it stand with – a honest man in uniform, or a woman accused of terror.