ATS is torturing me, says Sadhvi Pragya (With: Custody of Malegaon bombing accused extended; parties trade charges)

November 17th, 2008 - 11:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Nashik/Mumbai, Nov 17 (IANS) Malegaon bomb blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur Monday filed an affidavit in a Nashik court, accusing the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of torturing her and violating her human rights.In her six-page affidavit before the court of Joint Senior Civil Judge H.K. Ganatra, Pragya demanded an inquiry into her “physical, mental and psychological torture” by ATS officers, her illegal detention, and narco-analysis tests conducted on her.

Terming her arrest as “politically motivated”, she said she was beaten up so badly that at one point, she contemplated committing suicide.

She said her disciple Bhim Singh Pasricha, whom the ATS picked up along with her Oct 10, was ordered by the police to beat her up with a stick and a belt.

Complaining that the ATS sleuths too beat up both of them, she told the court that she was given only liquid diet, lodged in a hotel and admitted to two hospitals in Mumbai before her formal arrest.

The judge said he would give his ruling on the allegations of torture Nov 29.

“The ATS police came to pick me up from Bhim Singh’s residence in Surat on October 10 for interrogation and suggested that I took my father along,” the Sadhvi said in the sworn affidavit. She said she declined to bother her father in view of his old age and suggested that Bhim Singh would accompany her instead.

“For the first two days after my detention, the police kept shouting at me. They asked me about the motorcycle (in which the bomb that exploded in Malegaon was placed). I told them I don’t know anything as I had sold the vehicle,” she said.

The 38-year-old woman, who is receiving maximum media attention and support from a cross-section of Hindutva orgainsations, said that when the ATS sleuths did not get any information from her in two days, they ordered Bhim Singh to beat her with a stick and a belt on her fore-arms and feet. He refused to do this, saying she was his guru.

Noting that her disciple had to finally comply with the police’s orders when they beat him up, Pragya said: “Bhim Singh beat me up softly, and infuriated at this, two ATS officers - one, named Khanvilkar, and another with a moustache - beat me up hurling filthy abuses.”

She said she and Bhim Singh were taken to Hotel Rajdoot in Nagpada Oct 15 and lodged in two rooms. “I was then admitted to the Sushrut Hospital in Dadar (in Mumbai) and then to another hospital on a hill,” she said in the affidavit.

She said the cops forced her to call a woman disciple from her mobile and tell her that she was alright.

She added that on account of “the custodial violence/torture, mental stress, anxiety that were developed in the process, I was subjected to, I developed acute abdominal and kidney pains. I lost my appetite, became nauseous and giddy and prone to having bouts of unconsciousness”.

Mahesh Jethmalani, senior counsel representing Pragya, said she had made the allegations against the ATS “on oath” and now the court’s directions on it were awaited.

“She was not allowed proper access to her lawyers, that’s why she has filed it now,” Jethmalani told IANS in the evening, when asked about the delay in filing the affidavit.

Pragya said she was “totally innocent of any offence whatsoever” and accused the ATS of violating her human rights.

She contended that while initially she was “painted as a sinister mastermind of the Malegaon blast, that role has now been reassigned by the ATS to Lt. Col. (Prasad) Purohit”.

The court, meanwhile, extended the judicial custody of the sadhvi and seven other accused till Nov 29.

Special public prosecutor Ajay Missar, representing the ATS of the Maharashjtra police, argued for extension of remand for the accused on grounds that the investigations into the Sep 29 Malegaon blast, which left six dead and 20 injured, were still continuing.

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