Amidst a veil of secrecy and tight security, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur attended her father’s funeral on Monday and promptly set off for jail in Bhopal. The Special Judge (NIA) Bhopal, Vijay Kumar Pandey, on March 3, 2013, gave special permission to Sadhvi Pragya to attend her father’s funeral on March 4, and ordered her to return to jail on March 5.
Ayurvedic doctor Chandrapal Singh died on March 2, 2013, in Etawah, Uttar Pradesh. His family immediately declared that the funeral would not be held until the Sadhvi gets bail. They took the body to their native village, Lahar, Bhind district, Madhya Pradesh, for the last rites. Bail is normally granted to undertrials and even convicts to attend family funerals and weddings. In fact, on October 19, 2012, Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir headed the Bench that granted bail to journalist Syed Mohammad Ahmed Kazmi who was arrested on March 6, 2012 for alleged involvement in the Israeli diplomat car attack case, on grounds that bail is a right.
Advocate Ganesh Sovani on Sunday, March 3, 2013, submitted an application for grant of interim bail so that she could attend the funeral on March 4, and observe the 13-day mourning period with her family. As it was a holiday, he contacted special public prosecutor Rohini Salian and requested her presence before the Special MCOC & NIA judge on Monday, March 4. But during the hearing, Salian sought two days time to get instructions from NIA higher-ups in Delhi to respond to her interim bail plea. The Special National Investigating Agency (NIA) and Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) Court will now hear the interim bail plea to enable the Sadhvi to observe the remaining mourning period with her family only on March 6.
However, as Sadhvi Pragya is currently lodged at the District Jail, Bhopal, MP, on account of being an accused in the Sunil Joshi Murder case, a separate application was also moved by her local lawyers before the Special NIA Judge, Bhopal, MP. Accordingly, Mr. Vijay Kumar Pandey granted special permission to attend the funeral at Bhind, and so she took a nine-hour journey by train and two-hour road drive to reach Lahar. After attending the funeral, she took the return journey and is expected back in Bhopal District Jail on the evening of March 5.
It bears recalling that a benevolent Indian judiciary permitted Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone to fly home for Christmas last December despite being arrested for the murder of two Indian fishermen off Alapuzha coast on February 15, 2012.
But different standards have always been applied in the case of Sadhvi Pragya, who has been denied bail persistently for five years despite suffering from cancer. More pertinently, Sadhvi Pragya has been languishing in jail despite the police or intelligence agencies failing to frame charges against her in the 2008 Malegaon blasts. When she developed cancer in jail and experienced ill-treatment in custody, she informed the Registrar (Judicial), Mumbai High Court, in January 2013 that she would not take medical treatment for her malady unless released on bail. Despite the poignancy of the situation, the National Investigation Agency again opposed Sadhvi Pragya’s bail application in February 2013; it offered to get her admitted to Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, which she declined.
Now, despite the death of her father, the judiciary does not seem inclined to give her bail, hence the surreptitious permission to attend the cremation ceremony.
To briefly recapitulate the travails of Sadhvi Pragya, she was accused of plotting the September 29, 2008, bomb blasts in Malegaon (Maharashtra) and Modasa (Gujarat), in which six Muslims died. Thereafter, a spectre of ‘Hindu terror’ equaling, or equalising, Islamic jihad, was raised.
Despite the complete absence of any evidence – primary, circumstantial, corroborative, forensic, or even contrived through facilities like brain-mapping and lie detector tests during prolonged police custody – the myth was assiduously maintained with help from an obliging media which reported all leaks as gospel truth and a judiciary that refused bail and gave the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad excessive leeway in its fishing expedition.
There have, of course, been stories galore, such as alleged ‘eyewitnesses’ who ‘heard’ both sides of a conversation between principal accused Ramji Kalsagre and Pragya Singh Thakur, wherein Ramji told Pragya her motorcycle was used in the Malegaon blasts and assured her that it would not be traced to her.
Then, Ajay Eknath Rahirkar was said to have financed the conspiracy, and had coordinated with Jagdish Chintamani Mhatre and Rakesh Dattaram Dhawade to purchase arms. But since no guns were used in the attack, citizens can only wonder at the quality of our investigating agencies.
It bears mention that in the 2006 Malegaon blasts, the ATS concluded that the blasts were the handiwork of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). But this time it was not willing to look at that organisation, which is currently being linked to the twin blasts in Hyderabad on February 21, 2013.
Despite five years of failing to frame a charge sheet against Sadhvi Pragya, the case continues under the stringent MCOCA. This is truly diabolical as that the Congress-dominated UPA had revoked POTA on coming to power, claiming that such stiff laws were not needed to tackle terrorism. Indeed, that is why Abu Salem, extradited from Portugal, was exempted from MCOCA coverage!
The flip side is that even the investigating officers find it difficult to keep track of their ‘stories’. Hence, the sleazy photographs of women, once ‘found’ on the computer of Varanasi sanyasi Dayanand Pande, have quietly disappeared.