Advani wants Sadhvi’s role probed, Congress raises ante on Malegaon (Intro Roundup)

November 18th, 2008 - 10:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Tuesday finally broke his silence over the arrest of a Hindu religious leader allegedly involved in the Malegaon bomb blasts, even as Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi asked the BJP to introspect on supporting those accused of masterminding a terrorist attack.Also on Tuesday, Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit, the army officer arrested for the Sep 29 blasts that killed six people, faced more trouble as a court in Nashik in Maharashtra handed him over to the Pune police in connection with a series of crimes in that city.

And, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Tuesday announced a “huge agitation” here Nov 26 against the “indiscriminate arrests” of Hindu religious activists in the name of terrorism, saying it was meant “to fight against the atrocities being done on the majority community”

Advani had been roundly criticised by what is collectively termed the Sangh Parivar for his deafening silence on the issue, even as other Hindu leaders decried the arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur as, what they termed, a conspiracy of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) again saffron outfits.

On Tuesday, Advani struck back, demanding a judicial inquiry into the sadhvi’s case.

“I demand a judicial inquiry to probe charges against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and the manner in which unsubstantiated allegations have been made against army personnel,” Advani said in a statement released here while he was on way from Delhi to Raipur.

Advani earlier maintained that the BJP had nothing to do with the sadhvi and if found guilty, she should be punished.

Advani also demanded that “the present Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) team investigating the case be changed totally”.

The veteran leader admitted that he had “so far” refrained from commenting on the case but Pragya’s affidavit, made before a Nashik court Monday, made him change his mind.

While the Nashik court Monday extended the remand for Pragya, 38, and seven other accused of the Malegaon bomb blast case, she in her affidavit alleged that the ATS had illegally detained her and then tortured her “physically, mentally and psychologically”.

“I read the full text of Sadhvi Pragya’s affidavit submitted before the Nashik court (Monday). I cannot believe that such barbaric treatment has been meted out to a spiritual person, that too, to a woman in a country that prides on its democracy and rule of law,” Advani said.

“After going through her affidavit, detailing how she was psychologically and physically tortured and abused in obscene language by her interrogators, I have to express my shock and outrage, which I’m sure all Indians will share,” he said.

Addressing a press conference in Amritsar, Gandhi touched on the Malegaon blasts for perhaps the first time, saying: “It is very sad that such things are happening. But the people involved in all this (Malegaon bomb blast) are linked to the VHP.”

“The BJP should take a good look at the kind of people they are promoting,” Gandhi said.

Gandhi said the BJP’s accusation of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government being soft on terror was unfounded.

“This (UPA) government has been very tough on terror. I am happy the way that they have handled terror,” Gandhi said.

From Nashik, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Pune police took Purohit to the city for interrogating him in various cases of forgery, cheating and offences under the Arms Act apart from a three-year old case of beating up of a Christian priest in Khadki near Pune.

He will be produced in a court there Wednesday for police custody remand in the offences punishable under sections 465, 468, 471, 474 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Judge H.K. Ganatra of the chief judicial magistrate court here explained to him.

The court was told that the offences against Purohit were registered with the Pune ATS Nov 4, though details of the cases were not immediately known.

While another Malegaon case accused Samir Kulkarni is the main accused in the case of beating the priest, Pune police want to probe Purohit’s role in the case.

Kulkarni, who shifted to Madhya Pradesh from Pune over two years ago to spread the rightwing Hindutva group Abhinav Bharat’s message, was remanded to judicial custody in the Malegaon case and sent to Nashik jail along with Sadhvi Pragya and six others Tuesday.

In New Delhi, VHP spokesperson Vinod Bansal told IANS: “We haven’t laid out all the details of the programme but there is going to be a huge agitation against the government on Nov 26 in Delhi, to be convened by the recently formed Dharm Raksha Manch.”

The Dharm Raksha Manch was formed during the Nov 16 Panipat conclave organised by the Sangh Parivar “to fight against the atrocities being done on the majority community”.

Bansal said the capital will be divided into “six zones and each zone will be headed by a leader or sant”.

The agitation will include rallies and foot marches and the Manch is expected to take a decision Wednesday where or if all the rallies would assemble at one common point.

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