Shah Refutes Claims on Pragya Thakur, Says Saffron Terror Not Real
In a press conference held at New Delhi on Friday, 17 May, Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah again strongly refuted the claims made against Bhopal’s BJP candidate Pragya Singh Thakur. He claimed that the case framed against Pragya Thakur is fake. He said, “Pragya Thakur ka candidature, ye farzi Bhagwa terror ke farzi case ke khilaaf hamaara satyagraha hai (Pragya Thakur's candidature a satyagraha against fake charges of saffron terror).”
He further went on to say, “Ek farzi case Bhagwa terror ka banaya jisme sab log bury ho chuke hain. Aur bhagwa terror kalpanik baatein hain desh ki adaalat ab yeh keh chuki hain (that saffron terror is fictitious has been declared by the Supreme Court)”
Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had arrested Thakur as the prime accused in connection with the Malegaon bomb blast that killed 6 people and left over a 100 people were injured on 29 September 2008.
The bomb that was used for the blasts was set off with an IED fitted on an LML Freedom motorcycle. The motorcycle was registered under the name of Pragya Thakur.
In the charge sheet filed by ATS, it was mentioned that the motorcycle was given by Thakur to Ramchandra Kalsangar. He, along with Sandeep Dhange (also known as Sandeep Dange), implemented the attack. Further, as per the charge sheet, Thakur also facilitated the procurement of explosives to the duo through another accused.
In 2011, the case was then transferred to the NIA on the orders of the then UPA government. The Bombay High Court had decided to grant her bail in April 2017, for which it had two reasons. First, it raised questions over whether or not the evidence showed there was a prima facie case against Thakur, and noted that the evidence cited didn’t point to her alone. Second, it took into consideration Thakur’s medical condition – she had informed the court she had cancer (read a separate fact check on that here).
What is crucial to note though is that the Bombay High Court expressly clarified that what it said in the bail order was applicable only in relation to Thakur’s bail plea. The order specifically said that the trial court should not be influenced by these observations.
Special NIA Court’s Judgment
While the charge sheet was being considered by the special NIA court, the accused also filed applications asking for discharge on grounds that there wasn’t a good case against them.
However, on 27 December 2017, the NIA special court rejected the discharge requests. Judge SD Tekale examined all the evidence including the supplementary charge sheet filed by the NIA, and decided that while the MCOCA charges could be dropped against all accused, other charges could not. The court retained the other charges against Pragya Thakur, including the terror charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.
The NIA’s order reads,
The court also cited an alleged phone conversation between Sadhvi Pragya and the people who planted the bomb as relevant prima facie evidence against her.
The court’s order on this matter reads:
“... shows that accused no 1 also had several phone calls with absconding accused Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange in these two months... It (the court) has to bear in the mind that as per the statements of witnesses before ATS officer that accused no 1 had agreed to provide men for causing blast. As per both investigating agencies absconding accused Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange are the planters of the bomb. Hence above material cannot be over looked at this prima facie stage.”
Judge Tekale therefore observed that there was enough evidence to frame charges against Sadhvi Pragya under sections 16 (committing terrorist act) and 18 (conspiring to commit terrorist act) of the UAPA, and sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Explosive Substance Act, 1908 read with several sections of the IPC.
On 30 October 2018, the NIA special court (now with Judge Vindo Padalkar) reaffirmed its decision from December 2017 and approved the charge sheet, framing charges against Sadhvi Pragya and seven others under the relevant sections of the UAPA, amounting to conspiracy to commit, advocate, incite or knowingly facilitate a terrorist act. The court also charged Sadhvi Pragya under the IPC for murder, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity between communities, along with relevant charges under the Explosive Substance Act.
The trial continues, with Thakur neither acquitted nor discharged.
Therefore, there is no basis at this point to claim that the terror charges against Thakur, and that the case is a “figment of imagination” by the Supreme Court. After assessing all the evidence available, two different judges of the NIA courts have decided there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial for terror offences.
It should be noted that the observations of the Bombay High Court when granting Thakur bail cannot be cited by Amit Shah either. The judges themselves expressly said they were only in the context of bail, and the trial court’s assessment of evidence took place after the high court order.
Nor can Shah use the Samjhauta Express judgment to justify this statement. Several BJP leaders tried to use observations in that judgment of the NIA court acquitting Swami Aseemanand and others, to say that the court had rejected the idea of ‘Hindu terror’.
This is an incorrect interpretation given to paragraph 65 of that judgment, which had made non-binding observations on the nature of terror, and how terrorism had no religion, Islam included. As obiter dicta, that wording has no legal significance, and the sentiment expressed does not in any way absolve Thakur of the charges against her.