When Pragya Thakur & Her Supporter Shirked The Quint’s Interview

Pragya Singh Thakur avoided questions when The Quint’s reporter went on a campaign trail with the leader.

8 min read
When Pragya Thakur & Her Supporter Shirked The Quint’s Interview
Hindi Female

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Bharat Mata Ki Jai, the man with a chandan tika on his forehead continued to ramble as I tried to push him and made one last desperate attempt to climb on to the e-rickshaw. “Want to interview her,” I screamed. “Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, he retorted, his grip on the two rods facing the open side of e-rickshaw more firm now.

Locking horns with a BJP supporter while chasing Pragya Singh Thakur, being stopped not once BUT twice from climbing on to the e-rickshaw in which the BJP candidate was traveling, I had it all coming on a single day.

Will take you all through the flashback later. First the incident that did not shock me as much as it filled me with disgust for the way I was treated at a public event by a supporter of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur.


On 23 April, I had gone to Bhopal as part of The Quint’s election coverage. A week prior to my visit, Bhopal was in the headlines, thanks to the BJP candidate from the city, Pragya Singh Thakur.

If shooting her mouth off was a disease, Pragya Thakur surely didn’t know how to cure it. From proclaiming that it was her ‘curse’ that resulted in Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s death in 2008 to accepting her role in the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, Pragya Thakur continued to dominate the primetime for almost a week.

At around 6:30 pm, I had rushed to the New Market where Pragya Singh Thakur was scheduled to meet local traders and shop owners. It was in this popular market of Bhopal where I was supposed to interview her.

A stage had been built in the middle of the market in front of the Hanuman temple. That she had strong backing from the party was evident as the faces of BJP president Amit Shah and former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh,Shivraj Singh Chouhan could be seen alongside PM Modi on the poster put up by the New Market Traders’ Association.

Poster put up by the New Market Traders’ Association of Bhopal.
(Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

I still had fifteen minutes before Thakur’s arrival. The evening crowd at the New Market continued with their routine bargaining and shopping.


As I checked audio levels of the lapel mike for the fourth time (didn’t want to take any chances as I knew there won’t be any re-take), an old woman walked up to me with a smile. ‘Aashirwad dene aayi hoon (have come here to give my blessings)’, she said glancing at the photo of Pragya Thakur on the stage.

‘Assembly me kisko diya tha aashirvad (who did you bless during the Assembly elections)?’, I asked, now curious to know if there was a switch in her voting choice.

‘Galti sudhar lena chahiye (should try and work on mistakes),’ she said again laughingly before disappearing into the crowd.

Pragya Arrives in Midst of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ Slogans

It was 8 pm and there was still no sign of Pragya Singh Thakur. Through her supporters I gathered that she would be going around the market in an e-rickshaw.

One man among BJP supporters asked me which media organisation I represented. He didn’t seem to be impressed on hearing the reply.

It was 8:15 now so I headed towards the entrance gate where Pragya Thakur was expected anytime.

Fifteen minutes later, Pragya Singh Thakur arrived in a white SUV amidst chants of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’. She had a cordon comprising two female and two male security personnel.

BJP flags outside kirana shops in Bhopal’s New Market.
(Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

I tossed the mike immediately towards her, introducing myself and asking if she’s willing to do an interview before hitting for the campaign trail. ‘Pehle janta darshan (first interaction with the public),’ Thakur said as she got down and proceeded towards the e-rickshaw.

A maroon-coloured sheet made of velvet was spread out on the seat of e-rickshaw where Thakur sat with one female security personnel occupying the opposite side. There was still space in the e-rickshaw for at least two more people. I was told to wait till the procession began after which I could also hop on to the e-rickshaw.

A vehicle was moving ahead of e-rickshaw which was fitted with a confetti cannon and would erupt into bursts of flowers and streamers occasionally.

Is Didi Afraid of Tough Questions?

Minutes after Pragya Thakur’s cavalcade began making its way through the New Market, I moved towards the open side of e-rickshaw.

Sensing that I was about to interview their leader, the same man who had asked me about professional affiliation, jumped from behind and held onto both sides of vertical rods, used for climbing on board an e-rickshaw. He had basically blocked my way to the e-rickshaw.

The sloganeering was getting intense with every passing moment as supporters hailed Thakur and chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’.

BJP candidate Pragya Singh Thakur on board an e-rickshaw while campaigning in Bhopal’s New Market.
(Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

I told this man to allow me to get on to the e-rickshaw for an interview. With a stern look, he nodded his head from left to right, indicating NO and continued to hold fort on the entrance side of e-rickshaw, chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ furiously now.

Gathering all my strength, I tried to push this man aside hoping to get a response from Pragya Thakur straightaway if an interview was still on but to no avail. Even as I struggled with the BJP volunteer, not a single person, including security personnel, intervened.

I decided to try my luck again and tried to get on to the e-rickshaw from the other side. Here too, the same man came from behind and pulled me backwards as he nudged at my left shoulder this time, screaming at me, ‘rasta do (make way)’.

Deliberate Attempt to Avoid Media

A shopkeeper wearing a skullcap was being prodded to move forward and meet Pragya Thakur personally. He hesitantly walked towards the e-rickshaw and wished Pragya Thakur. As if this was the moment everyone was waiting for, mobile cameras flashed simultaneously.

It was 9:30 pm and by now I knew that the interview was not going to happen.


This was not the first time when a BJP leader had tried to avoid our questions. A week before this incident, BJP MP and Union Minister Giriraj Singh had also stopped the interview with my colleague Shadab Moizee midway.

In Bhopal, once again, the BJP’s candidate and her supporter made sure that she doesn’t have to face tough questions from a journalist who was not willing to toe their line.

BJP supporters and workers at the newly inaugurated party office earlier in the day.
(Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

PM Modi & Pragya Thakur Feature Together in Campaign Material

An hour before this incident, I had visited the new office of BJP at Gammon Mall in Bhopal city.

A crowd of BJP supporters could be seen teeming on the first floor of the mall. Around 8-10 police personnel stood outside making sure there’s no commotion of any kind.

A hoarding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur was placed close to the stairs of the mall.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate Pragya Singh Thakur on a hoarding outside the Gammon Mall in Bhopal.
(Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

Understandably, in the hoarding, the stature of the prime minister was higher than BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate Pragya Singh Thakur. Both wore saffron with Pragya Thakur raising her left hand in the form of a fist.

Devoid of a party slogan, this picture was definitely worth a thousand words.

On 20 April, in an interview to the news channel Times Now, Prime Minister Modi had said:

“Samjhauta Express verdict came. What came out? Without any evidence, a rich civilisation as old as 5,000 years, which gave the message of ‘the whole world is one’... You called such a civilisation terrorist? To give a reply to all such people, this (fielding of Pragya Thakur) is a symbol and this symbol will cost the Congress dearly.”

Supporters Claim ‘Ab Hoga Nyay’

Inside the mall, a hall full of people was constantly chanting slogans. Inauguration of BJP’s new office seemed to be a big event for the local media.

Flashes from cameras and mobile phones could be seen even in midst of around 100 men and women who were sitting inside with Pragya Thakur. It seemed as if everyone wanted a glimpse of her.

Men wearing Pragya T-shirts which said ‘Ab Hoga Nyay (Now justice will be done)’ strolled outside the main hall.

One of them explained the rationale behind their outfits. ‘Injustice was done against Sadhvi Pragya, so we have chosen this logo,’ said one in an interview to a local channel.

Another one claimed that after visiting as many as 500 cities and distributing party’s pamphlets in 14 languages, he had now come to support Didi (Pragya Thakur).

Pragya Thakur’s supporter wearing ‘Ab Hoga Nyay’ T-shirts claiming injustice has been done to their Didi.
(Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

Saffronisation of Bhopal

Earlier in the day, something seemed unusual about the city of Bhopal, which otherwise, would seem like any other tier II city.

At gate no 1 of the Bhopal junction is a building which looked more like an office space was under construction. Move closer to the structure and you will see an Om symbol hung right in the middle of a Mughal jali-style window.

A poster on behalf of the Bajrang Dal’s ‘Madhya Bharat’ wing is tied to the window, which welcomes visitors to the city of Bhopal.

The very presence of a Bajrang Dal poster at a public place, like that of railway station, conveys the political tenor ahead of 12 May when Bhopal will go to polls.

Poster on behalf of the Bajrang Dal welcomes visitors right outside the Bhopal junction.
(Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

Meanwhile here were the questions for Pragya Singh Thakur from my side; I would definitely like to hear from the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate in case she changes her mind before 12 May:

1) What are the important issues for you in these elections?

2) An ADR survey says that for 62 percent people of MP, jobs is an important issue, why are you then repeatedly talking about 'saffron terror' in your speeches?

3) Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari has said that PM Modi is doing a favour to Pakistan by fielding a terror accused, would you like to respond?

4) While filing nomination, you spoke about women security, any word of advice for trolls who are mostly right-wing bhakts abusing senior journos?

5) As opposed to your claim of 'torture' by Hemant Karkare, special prosecutor Rohini Salian had said there's no evidence; even the NHRC had not found such claims to be true, how do you justify your version then?

6) Why are these elections 'Dharmayudh' for you, why not 'Karmayudh' whereby you suggest solutions to problems like unemployment, agrarian distress, etc.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  BJP   Babri Masjid Demolition   bhopal 

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