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After political row, EC bans Pragya for 72 hours

The EC added that while Thakur apologised for her comment on Karkare, it found them “unwarranted”. An FIR has also been filed against her under section 188 (disobedience to a public servant’s order) of the Indian Penal Code.

lok sabha elections Updated: May 02, 2019 00:49 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pragya Thakur,Sadhvi Pragya Thakur,Hemant Karkare
Pragya Singh Thakur, the BJP’s Bhopal candidate, has been banned from campaigning for 72 hours by the Election Commission.(File Photo)

Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday barred the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate for the Bhopal parliamentary constituency, Pragya Singh Thakur, from campaigning for three days for violating the Model Code of Conduct by stirring up communal feelings. The poll watchdog said in its order that the decision came in light of her comments against slain IPS officer Hemant Karkare and on the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The ban would come into force from 6.00 am on Thursday.

The EC added that while Thakur apologised for her comment on Karkare, it found them “unwarranted”. An FIR has also been filed against her under section 188 (disobedience to a public servant’s order) of the Indian Penal Code. “...the Commission has carefully gone through the contents and averments made in the aforesaid reply of Sadhavi Pragya Singh Thakur and found it provocative and also on religious lines that have the propensity of spreading hatred among various communities...,” the order read.

Thakur, one of the accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, where six people died and at least 100 were injured, triggered a political storm earlier this month when she said her curse had killed Karkare, who died while fighting terrorists during the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks. Karkare was the chief of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad that charged Thakur in the Malegaon case. The Congress and other opposition parties condemned her remarks while the BJP had distanced itself.

The EC said that in her reply after its show-cause notice, Thakur said that it was her right to speak about what had happened to her in custody. Thakur has alleged that she was tortured while in custody by Karkare on the behest of the then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government. She added that her comments should be taken into consideration in its entirety, and blamed the media for taking out a part without context.

Thakur also stoked a controversy when she said she was “proud” of her participation in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya in 1992. In reply to another EC notice on her Babri Masjid comments, she said it was not her intention to hurt the feelings of any community, caste, language or followers of any religion. The EC said that the Bhopal district poll officer did not find her reply satisfactory.

Congress candidate from Bhopal, Digvijaya Singh, welcomed the order. “It is natural when the BJP fields (a person) accused of terrorism and those (who) indulge in the politics of communal hatred. It would be better had the nomination of such candidates was cancelled for safeguarding the ideals of democratic values,” he tweeted. Bhopal votes on May 12.

Thakur said she would appeal the decision. “I will abide by the law. Legal experts are looking into the EC decision. I will appeal against the same,” she said.

First Published: May 01, 2019 20:31 IST