Neena Vyas

Party has given up its “law will take its course” stand

NEW DELHI: Giving up its earlier stance of “the law will take its own course,” the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday came out in full support of Sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon bomb blasts case.

Party spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad described the police probe into her links with the terrorist incident as “sponsored investigation.” The police must come up with credible evidence against her and if it was available “the law should take its course.”

When a journalist questioned the BJPs “double standards” — in describing the Sadhvi as an “accused” and calling “terrorists” the two Muslim youths who were shot dead by the police at Jamia Nagar here, within 24 hours of the Batla House incident — Mr. Prasad said everyone was innocent until proved guilty, and all the accused had the legal right to be defended.

Asked about the party’s objection to Jamia Millia Vice-Chancellor Mushirul Hasan’s announcement that legal aid would be organised for students who had been charged by the police with having indulged in terrorist activities, Mr. Prasad said that even today he would object to a Vice-Chancellor organising legal aid for Sadhvi Pragnya. Organisations should not do that, he said. However, there could be no objection if members of the BJP’s legal cell in Mumbai and elsewhere were asked for help and if they agreed to provide it.

Party sources pointed out that the green signal came for a stout defence of the Sadhvi at a meeting between BJP president Rajnath Singh and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani and senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh functionaries in the Jhandewalan complex a few days ago. Earlier, Mr. Singh himself indicated that this would be the party line when he said “nationalist” forces (like the RSS or the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, of which Sadhvi Pragnya was an active member) could not be involved in terrorist activity.

Mr. Prasad’s argument rested on investigations into a bomb blast in Malegaon in 2006 (not the 2008 attack in connection with which Sadhvi Pragnya was arrested) in which cases were filed against some alleged SIMI activists. He said the police and the anti-terrorist squad in Maharashtra failed to follow the “same links” in the 2008 blast case.

Terror link

Speaking on condition of anonymity, some BJP leaders admitted to a “sense of unease” in the party over the possibility of a Sangh Parivar link to terrorism.

The party leaders fear that the main issue of terrorism, which the BJP hopes to use to the hilt in the coming elections, is in some danger of being diluted. At the same time, the party is getting ready to build on the issue even more aggressively if the police are not able to get the terrorism charges stick on Sadhvi Pragnya.