Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi today hit out at BJP leader Pragya Singh Thakur for her comment that Nathuram Godse, who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, was a "deshbhakt (patriot)". The 65-year-old child rights activist posted a message on Twitter warning the nation that comments by people like Pragya Thakur were "killing the soul of India".
"Godse assassinated Gandhi's body. But people like Pragya are killing his soul along with non-violence, peace and tolerance. Gandhi is above every party and politics. The BJP leadership must leave the desire for small benefits and immediately remove them from the party and follow 'raj dharma' (duty of governance)," Mr Satyarthi tweeted in Hindi.
गोडसे ने गांधी के शरीर की हत्या की थी, परंतु प्रज्ञा जैसे लोग उनकी आत्मा की हत्या के साथ, अहिंसा,शांति, सहिष्णुता और भारत की आत्मा की हत्या कर रहे हैं।गांधी हर सत्ता और राजनीति से ऊपर हैं।भाजपा नेतृत्व छोटे से फ़ायदे का मोह छोड़ कर उन्हें तत्काल पार्टी से निकाल कर राजधर्म निभाए।- Kailash Satyarthi (@k_satyarthi) May 18, 2019
Pragya Thakur made her "deshbhakt" comment in response to an earlier remark by actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan, who had said, "Godse, the first extremist of independent India, was a Hindu".
It sparked an avalanche of criticism from the opposition, with Congress leader Digvijaya Singh - who is her rival for the Bhopal seat - claiming her statement amounted to sedition.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also hit out at Pragya Thakur and the BJP.
She was also criticised by Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra Group, whose tweet warned the country it risked "becoming the Taliban".
Amid spiralling criticism, the BJP was forced into damage control mode yesterday with party president Amit Shah tweeting: "These comments have nothing to do with the party. All three (two other BJP leaders tweeted in support of Pragya Singh Thakur but both tweets have since been deleted) have apologized, but these comments are against the ideology of the BJP and are being referred to the disciplinary committee".
Pragya Thakur finally apologised late on Thursday night, tweeting: "I apologise to the people of the country for my statements on Nathuram Godse. My statement was absolutely wrong. I have huge respect for the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi".
An accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast, Pragya Thakur, who is out on bail, was named the BJP Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal in April and has made controversial comments like claiming she "cursed" police officer Hemant Karkare, who died fighting terrorists in the 26/11 attack, and bragging about participating in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
She received a 72-hour campaigning ban from the Election Commission for those comments.