New Delhi: Courting more controversy and inviting widespread ire, BJP’s Bhopal candidate and Malegaon bomb blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur gloated on Thursday, saying that the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack martyr and Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare had died because she had "cursed" him. Her insensitive statement raised several eyebrows, with many terming it as an insult to all those who had sacrificed their lives fighting terrorism.
Flanked by BJP who leaders clapped vigorously at a press conference in Bhopal when a saffron clad Thakur said, “I had told him you will be destroyed, and he was gone in less than two months.”
Mumbai ATS chief Karkare had investigated the charges against Thakur in connection with the Malegaon blasts and unravelled a Hindutva terror network. He was killed along with two senior police officers while fighting terrorists during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008. Thakur is currently out on bail.
Thakur’s statement reiterated the Hindu extremists’ angry stand against the IPS officer for investigating and arresting several prominent Hindutva leaders and some members of the Indian Army, such as Col. Purohit.
Coming from someone who had been accused and arrested in connection to a terror attack, the comment has also raised questions about the ruling party’s stand on terrorism, drilling holes into Prime Minister Narendra Modi's claim that there is nothing called 'Hindu Terror'.
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday fielded Thakur from the Bhopal seat, against Congress heavyweight and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh.
Reacting to her statement, Singh said, "Hemant Karkare was a dedicated officer. He laid down his life for the country and we should be proud of him. No one should comment on it."
Madhya Pradesh Chief Electoral Office sources said a complaint has been received against Thakur for her comments on Karkare. The matter is under inquiry, they said.
IPS Officers, Opposition Condemn Remark
Meanwhile, the IPS Officers Association condemned the BJP candidate's remarks against the late police officer.
"Ashok Chakra awardee late Sri Hemant Karkare, IPS made the supreme sacrifice fighting terrorists. Those of us in uniform condemn the insulting statement made by a candidate and demand that sacrifices of all our martyrs be respected," the association tweeted.
Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal hit out at Thakur for her "disgraceful" comments.
"Disgraceful comments by BJP's Bhopal Lok Sabha candidate Pragya Thakur on 26/11 martyr Hemant Karkare ji need to be condemned in strongest terms. BJP is showing its true colours & it must be shown its place now," he tweeted.
The Congress demanded an apology from the Prime Minister over her comments.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the remark was an insult to every soldier who has sacrificed his life for the country while fighting terrorism.
"Modi ji, only BJP leaders can commit the crime of declaring 26/11 martyr Hemant Karkare a traitor," Surjewala said on Twitter, adding "This is an insult to every Indian soldier who has sacrificed his life for Mother India while fighting terrorism. Apologise to the country and take action against Pragya," he added.
Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister and People’s Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti also lashed out at the comment.
"I think these are the worst days for our country that you are giving such a choice of candidates to the people who use such language against a martyr like Hemant Karkare," she told reporters.
On the backfoot after the outrage, the BJP on Friday distanced itself from Thakur's controversial comments, terming those as her “personal view.”
"The BJP believes that Karkare died while bravely fighting terrorists. The BJP has always considered him a martyr, " the party said in a statement here in a damage-control exercise.
However, the entire episode exposes BJP's Hindutva agenda, as the party has proved that the so-called Hindu Right-wing fringe is very much at the core of its mainstream existence in the country.
(With inputs from PTI)