Probe charges against Pragya: Advani (Roundup, combining different series)

November 18th, 2008 - 7:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate 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 another accused in the case, Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit was handed over to the Pune police for his interrogation in another case. 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 what they termed a conspiracy of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) against saffron outfits in the arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur.

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.

Earlier this week, BJP president Rajnath Singh also supported Pragya.

“I am not ready to believe that Sadhvi Pragya is a terrorist,” Singh said in an interview to NDTV.

The two BJP leaders’ statements are contrary to their earlier stand of distancing themselves from radical Hindu outfits.

Advani now believes the Maharashtra “ATS is acting in a politically motivated and unprofessional manner”.

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is an accused in the Sep 29 bomb blast in a Muslim-dominated area of Malegaon, Maharashtra that claimed six lives.

Meanwhile, Purohit was Tuesday handed over to the Pune ATS for his interrogation in a three-year-old case of beating up a Christian priest in Khadki near that city.

He will be brought before a court in Pune Wednesday for police custody remand, Judge H.K. Ganatra of the chief judicial magistrate court here explained to him.

While another Malegaon blast suspect, Samir Kulkarni, has been accused of beating the priest and absconding after that, the Pune police want to probe Purohit’s role in the case, the court was told.

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

Earlier, Mumbai ATS handling the Malegaon bomb blast case presented Purohit to the court and sought his magisterial custody on expiry of his police custody. A team of police from Pune had arrived to claim his custody for the Khadki assault on a Christian.

Purohit’s lawyer Avinash Bhide objected to his client being handed over to the Pune ATS on the plea that Judge Ganatra was holding charge in the absence of Chief Judicial Magistrate K.D. Boche.

Purohit’s transfer to the Pune police ensures that he remains available to ATS even after the expiry of his maximum permissible police custody of 14 days.

Police sources said Nashik police were meanwhile preparing to seek the army officer’s police custody remand for a case of fake arms licence.

Police in four other states is also waiting in the wings to quiz Purohit.

The Rajasthan Police want to question him about the blasts in Jaipur in May, the Haryana Police are seeking to interrogate him for a possible link to last year’s horrific Samjhauta Express blasts, the Andhra Pradesh Police feel he could be linked to the Mecca Masjid blasts while the Gujarat Police feel he could be linked to the blasts that occurred in Modasa simultaneously with the Malegaon explosions.

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