BJP Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, facing trial in the Malegaon bomb blast case, Thursday broke down while narrating how she was "tortured" while in custody of the police. Thakur (48) also set the tone for her high-profile poll battle in Bhopal againt Congress candidate Digvijay Singh, whom she accused of using words like "Hindu" and saffron" terror".
Out on bail, the saffron activist has been discharged by a court on charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the 2008 case, but is still facing trial under other criminal provisions, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Addressing a gathering of BJP workers at Manas Bhawan auditorium Thakur, who spent several years in jail after being arrested in the case, alleged she was illegally detained and beaten up by police personnel.
"Jab Mujhe Lekar Gaye, Gair Kanooni Taur Par, 13 Din Tak Rakkha, Pahle Hi Din Bina Kuchh Poochhe, Unhone Mujhe Bulaya, Itna Chauda Belt (showing size by her hand), Ek Belt Se Hath Sooj Jata hai, Doosre Belt Me to Hath Fat Jata Hai. (Police illegally detained me for 13 days. They called me and beat me with a wide belt. Hands get swollen just by one hit of the belt. The second strike can tear hand)," she said. "Ye Jo Belt Marte The, Poora Nervous System Dheela Pad Jata Tha, Sunn Pad Jata Tha, Ye Din Aur Raat Hota Tha. (The strike of belt makes nervous system go blank, this happened day and night)," she said in a choked voice.
"They used to hurl filthy abuses, would threaten to hang me upside down, undress me. I am not narrating my pain in front of you, I am just saying no other sister should face this kind of ordeal," Thakur said, wiping her tears. The Hindutva activist claimed the police wanted her to admit that she was involved in the blast in Malegaon, a town in Nashik district of neighbouring Maharashtra. "They want me to accept that I carried out the blast and killed Muslims...they tortured me entire night, the people who beat me changed in the morning but I remained the same," she said.
Earlier, in reply to a question, Thakur told reporters, "It was wrong for him (Digvijay) to use words like `Hindu and saffron terror'. "Now, he is forced to call himself a Hindu. His (Digvijay’s) situation is like a thief who has been caught red-handed."
Apparently taking a dig at the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, she said "Those who call terrorists with respect tried to ensnare me in a conspiracy."
Reacting to the BJP candidate's statements, state Congress spokesman Pankaj Chaturvedi said she narrated her ordeal with an eye on the polls.
"Pragya Singh was arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police in the Sunil Joshi murder case when the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government was in power. She should ask the BJP who conspired against her," Chaturvedi said.
In 2017, a Madhya Pradesh court acquitted Thakur of all charges in connection with the 2007 murder of Joshi, a right-wing activist. Addressing the gathering, the sadhvi termed her fight from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat as a "dharmyuddh" (religious war).
Reacting to Thakur's statement, Minister for Medical Education Vijaylaxmi Sadho said in Khargone that she should not bring religion into politics. Politics demands development and religion should not be brought into it, Sadho said. "If she wants to practice religion then she should go temples and recite bhajans," Sadho said.
The minister said the BJP faced a tough time finding a candidate to take on Singh in Bhopal, a seat the saffron outfit has been winning since 1989. She was declared the BJP candidate from Bhopal Wednesday.