By KAVITA KRISHNAN
No longer can the Sangh Parivar and BJP ever disown its role in terrorism. A former firebrand ABVP leader and so-called 'sadhvi', Pragya Singh Thakur, has been arrested for her role in the Malegaon blasts of September 2006 as well as in the more recent Modasa blasts. Even more ominously, two ex-Army officers are implicated in the blasts, and it has come to light that an institution called the 'Bhonsala Military Academy' in Nagpur has been imparting arms training to the Bajrang Dal.
The Sangh Parivar has reacted by disclaiming its links with 'sadhvi' on the one hand, and on the other, by suggesting that it is inconceivable that a 'sadhvi' could be a terrorist. BJP spokesperson Venkaiyya Naidu has reminded us that according to the rule of law, the sadhvi is innocent till proven guilty, and the BJP has objected strongly to the term 'Hindutva terrorism.'
For a minute, imagine if the story were the same – with just one detail changed: replace the 'sadhvi' with a 'maulvi.' Then imagine the righteous roars that would be voiced by the BJP, demanding blood. In the Jamia Nagar blasts case, the BJP would not allow teenage boys the benefit of 'rule of law;' they castigated the Jamia VC for arranging legal aid, and in UP, Sangh cadre have beaten up lawyers taking up cases of blast-accused. Muslims accused of terrorism, it seems, are guilty even if proven innocent, and are certainly not entitled to the opportunity to prove themselves innocent!
There is ample proof that the sadhvi has campaigned for the BJP in elections, and has appeared in public gatherings with BJP President Rajnath Singh and MP CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan. Under POTA, as under the Chhattisgarh Special Security Act, those who are associated with or have known the accused can be prosecuted as 'conspirators.' Will the BJP tell us why Rajnath and Shivraj should not be prosecuted as 'conspirators' according to the principles espoused by the BJP itself? Surely there is more ground to prosecute Rajnath or Shivraj of conspiring with saffron terrorists than there is to prosecute Dr.Binayak Sen for links with Maoists?
What were Pragya Thakur's known activities? Her role in the communal pogrom in Gujarat 2002 is indicated: in fact, she campaigned for the BJP in Surat in 2002 and again in 2007. Her father, defending her, offers proof of some of the noble work she was known for: "Pragya and her organisation Jai Vande Matram would rescue girls who eloped with boys of another community, sometimes bring them back to their parents." So, like the notorious Babu Bajrangi, Pragya was involved in terrorising, kidnapping and coercing women who had married of their own accord outside their community. Pragya is proof positive of the fact that the same forces who openly indulge in communal pogroms and obscurantism violence against women could in fact be secretly involved in terrorism.
This said, it is also important to ask why the above facts were kept hidden from us for the past two years. Soon after the Malegaon blasts, in nearby Nanded, Bajrang Dal activists were accidentally killed by their own bombs, and investigation had revealed fake beards and 'Muslim-looking' clothing in their home. In other parts of Maharashtra and the country – Parbhani, tenkasi, Kanpur, Faizabad – there have been leads linking saffron forces to bomb blasts. Had these leads been pursued, is it not possible that some subsequent terrorist incidents could have been avoided? The state and ruling establishment is criminally guilty of ignoring these vital leads.
We are everyday asked to believe as gospel whatever is peddled as 'fact' by the police via the media in a terror investigation: to question is to be branded 'anti-national.' It is worth recalling that on November 26, 2007, less than two months after the Malegaon blasts, Director General of Police P S Pasricha had claimed to have 'solved' the case. Several Muslims were arrested and paraded, the names SIMI and Lashkar were bandied about, involvement of Pakistan and training received by the 'masterminds' in Pakistan pointed to. The police over the next two years have confidently given us detailed 'facts' about how the 8 arrested conceived of and executed the blasts. Those arrested were also linked with the Mumbai train blasts, according to the police. The ATS has prima facie "ruled out the involvement of Hindu fundamentalist groups in the Malegaon blasts" claiming that "RDX is only available to Islamic terrorist outfits." (TOI, 12 September 2006) Three of the accused were said to have "confessed" to the crime.
Now, we are told that the motorbike used in the September 29 Malegaon bomb blasts was registered in Pragya's name, and this led to her arrest. Are we to believe that the police took two years to find out the registration details of a bike involved in the blasts? The same police that just have to take one look at a bomb site to tell us confidently the exact nationality and organisational affiliation of the perpetrators? Is there any material at all – including RDX – that ex-Army men cannot easily have access to? Will the police explain to us how the 'confessions' of three Muslim men were secured (will they admit to torture)? Who will restore freedom, and apologise for character assassination and torture, to those who for the past two years have been blamed for blasts they did not do? Most importantly, are we really to believe that the Governments at State and Centre did not know all along about the activities of the Bhonsala Military Academy, and the fact that it was openly holding arms training camps for Bajrang Dal goons from all over the country? Blasts aside, how come such training camps for communal outfits were not deemed illegal and banned even as Bajrang Dal brigades repeatedly conducted anti-Muslim and anti-Christian violence?
The recent revelations in the Malegaon blasts put every ongoing blast investigation under a cloud and a question mark. Clearly, the police suppressed all the trails that led to Sangh outfits and BJP leaders – allowing these terrorists to roam free and contest and campaign in elections – while misleading the nation by framing innocents of a minority community. Is it not all too possible that this is happening in every single blast investigation?
It is not just BJP leaders, however, who are linked with the terrorist sadhvi. Pragya is a disciple of Swami Avadheshanand Giri: and her fellow disciples include Union HRD Minister and celebrated 'secular' figure Arjun Singh and his son Ajay. Ajay, head of the Congress campaign panel for the upcoming state polls in MP, rushed to deny Avadheshanand's links with Pragya.
The Congress and UPA Government is hoping to let the state machinery 'leak' out a tiny part of the truth about the involvement of Sangh outfits in terror, in order to get the upper hand in the elections. But we won't be satisfied with such scraps. We demand a thoroughgoing investigation into the involvement of Sangh outfits and so-called god-men and god-women, the Army connection, and the BJP in terrorism. And we demand a ban on the Bajrang Dal, VHP and other Sangh outfits against whom there is prima facie evidence of involvement in terrorism and communal violence (including activities like abduction ('rescue') of women who have eloped).