Insult to Hemant Karkare: BJP scores a self goal by fielding terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur

People in Mumbai and Maharashtra are outraged at terror accused and BJP’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur insulting late Hemant Karkare, who laid down his life in the call of duty in 2008

Insult to Hemant Karkare: BJP scores a self goal by fielding terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur

Sujata Anandan

If you are looking for personification of the words 'secular' and 'patriot' in one single individual, you need not look further than Hemant Karkare, the former chief of Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), who died fighting Pakistani terrorists on the night of 26/11.

Earlier, Karkare had been investigating the Malegaon blasts of September 2008 in which he had uncovered incontrovertible proof of the complicity of Pragya Singh Thakur, who the BJP has now nominated as its party candidate from Bhopal against Digvijaya Singh of the Congress.

The voters of Bhopal must consider if they regard Pragya, who is out on bail on health grounds in that terror case, as their ideal representative, not just in terms of a politician but also a Hindutva icon. For, Pragya was first arrested by the BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan for alleged involvement in the murder of RSS leader Sunil Joshi in Devas in MP in 2008. She was later acquitted in the case.

But despite the best efforts of the National Investigation Agency, which unsuccessfully tried to persuade public prosecutor Domini Salian to water down the case against Thakur and others (she refused), at the behest of the Modi government at the Centre, Thakur continues to face charges under UAPA in the Malegaon blasts case. The presiding judge, too, apart from Salian and Karkare, has found too much undeniable evidence against her to dismiss the case.

Whether she wins or loses in Bhopal, her candidature may have instantly influenced the elections in Malegaon, Bhiwandi and a few other Muslim majority constituencies in Maharashtra. But her recent ill-advised statement that Karkare died because of her curse upon him (she apparently told him he would have to pay for arresting her) may now have thrown all the Mumbai seats wide open and jeopardised the BJP-Shiv Sena candidates in all.

For, Karkare died fighting the 26/11 terrorists on the streets of Mumbai and he fought those terrorists without fear or favour. To Karkare, the nation was supreme and a terrorist was a terrorist, no matter whether Hindu or Muslim, Indian or Pakistani.

As the former Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi had awarded a compensation of Rs one crore to his widow Kavita Karkare who turned down the amount on the ground that her husband had died fighting for the nation and that his martyrdom came without a price tag.

That Modi had been trying to score brownie points against the then Congress-led governments in Maharashtra and New Delhi is quite another issue. But Modi and the BJP might now have to answer why Kavita Karkare was being sought to be compensated for her husband's death if he was not considered a martyr who had died in the cause of the nation. And if indeed Modi then considered him a patriot, why is Pragya Thakur now labelling him as a traitor to the nation's cause and claiming that her curse claimed his life?

The people of Mumbai and Maharashtra, both Hindu and Muslim, are furious. Karkare indeed died because of his karma, they say but not in the manner Thakur claims. He was discharging his duty in exemplary manner without caring for his life. They feel Thakur's statements are sullying the memories of not just this Ashok Chakra awardee but also other martyrs like Tukaram Omble, a police sub-inspector who had clung on to Ajmal Kasab in death grip even as Kasab snuffed out his life by emptying a whole AK47 magazine into his stomach.

The night of 26/11 still haunts Mumbai's people and they know the streets are safe today because of brave soldiers like Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Omble and Vijay Salaskar, all exemplary police officers throughout their careers, who died so that people may sleep at night in peace.

The BJP may just have scored a self goal by bringing a terror accused to the electoral fray. That not only shows its desperation but could have cost the party at least half a dozen seats in Maharashtra.

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