Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is pitted against senior Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh.
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday announced the candidature of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat. Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is pitted against senior Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh.
A resident of Bhind, Sadhvi Pragya is a post graduate in history and began her political career by joining the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Her father had been actively involved with RSS. Things took a turn for the worse when she was charge-sheeted by Maharashtra ATS in the 2008 Malegaon blast case.
On September 29, 2008, two bombs went off in Malegaon, Maharashtra, killing nine people. Although the NIA gave her the clean chit in 2015, citing lack of evidence against her, the trial court refused to discharge her from the case and noted that it was difficult to accept NIA’s claim given her motorcycle was used in the blast.
The court had dropped the charges under the MCOCA against her and she is now being tried under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. She is out on bail by the Bombay High Court, which was granted to her in 2017.
Here’s a timeline of what happened so far:
September 29, 2008 – Malegaon blasts: Two low-intensity blasts rock Malegaon, killing six people and injuring over 100. The bomb was fitted in an LML Freedom motorcycle.
October 24, 2008 – Soon after the blasts, Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) conducted an inquiry and traced the motorcycle to Surat and ultimately to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur. She was arrested. Army Officer Lt Col Shrikant Purohit and retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay were later arrested.
January 20, 2009 – Chargesheet filed before the special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court in Mumbai. Maharashtra ATS named 14 accused. The key material evidence against Thakur in ATS charge sheet is her bike. According to the charge sheet, Thakur was part of most proceedings of the radical activists from 2006 onwards. In these meetings, the plans to target Muslim-majority areas were discussed. Thakur was close to Sunil Joshi and Ramchandra Kalsangra – their men to execute the attack. She allowed using her motorcycle to plant the bomb.
July 2009 – MCOCA charges dropped against the accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case.
December 2010 – CBI arrested Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand. He confessed of his involvement in 2006 Malegaon, 2007 Samjhauta Express, 2007 Ajmer Dargah, 2007 Mecca Masjid and 2008 Malegaon blasts.
April 2011 – The Centre transferred the 2006 Malegaon, 2008 Malegaon, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Dargah blast cases to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The agency had been investigating Samjhauta Express blast case since 2010.
May 2016 – NIA filed the charge sheet and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and five others were given clean chit. The agency said it found no evidence against them.
April 2017 – Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur got bail from Bombay High Court.
May 2017 – The Supreme Court sought a response from Maharashtra government and NIA on Purohit’s bail plea.
August 2017 – Supreme Court granted bail to Purohit.
December 2017 – Special NIA court dropped MCOCA charges against Purohit. The court ordered that both Purohit and Thakur would face trial under UAPA.
October 2018 – The special NIA court framed charges against Thakur and six others under Sections 16 (committing terrorist act) and 18 (conspiring to commit terrorist act) of the UAPA, and under the IPC for murder, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity between communities. It set November 2 as the date to begin the trial.
April 2019 – BJP fields Thakur from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat.
After the announcement of her candidature from Bhopal parliamentary constituency, she told news agency ANI, “I am ready (to fight the election). There are some formalities which will be completed very soon.” Sadhvi Pragya said she is confident of winning the elections against Digvijaya Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP and two time Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Thakur had joined the BJP on Tuesday. BJP’s Alok Sanjar is the sitting MP from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat. Bhopal will go to polls on May 19 in the seventh phase of Lok Sabha elections 2019.