BJP leader Pragya Thakur, who raised controversies with her comments on the Babri Masjid demolition and the death of 26/11 hero Hemant Karkare, explained why she joined politics as she filed her election papers in Madhya Pradesh's Bhopal seat on Tuesday.
"Women are being tortured and numerous atrocities were committed upon them. They are being exploited and raped. I am a living example of the pain inflicted on women. I have gone through that pain," said Pragya Thakur, according to new agency ANI. "Now I have come because I want that no woman should be tortured by these criminals," she said at a rally on Tuesday in the state capital where former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was also present.
The accused in the Malegaon blast case will face the Congress's Digvijaya Singh in the Bhopal seat. But to be safe, the BJP has fielded a "dummy candidate" - outgoing parliamentarian Alok Sanjar - in this seat to salvage the situation if Pragya Thakur's candidature was cancelled due to a police case filed against her for her comments on the Babri Masjid demolition.
Pragya Thakur's recent comments that Hemant Karkare, killed by Pakistani terrorists who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008, died because she had "cursed" him had attracted strong condemnation from the opposition, police officers and civil society groups. BJP leaders defended her as someone who bore the brunt of having to face a false, politically motivated "Hindu terror" case investigated by Hemant Karkare under the Congress government.
In her reply to a notice by the Election Commission, Pragya Thakur stopped short of offering an apology. "I didn't pass defamatory comments against any martyr. I only described the torture inflicted on me on the orders of the then Congress government," news agency ANI quoted her as saying on Sunday.
In an interview with NDTV on Monday, Shivraj Singh Chouhan described the Malegaon blast accused as "a patriot and an innocent daughter of India" who "will win Bhopal with a huge majority".
Six people were killed and over 100 were injured in the 2008 Malegaon blasts. A National Investigation Agency (NIA) court dropped stringent charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act against her but the trial court retained charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
She is currently out on bail, on health grounds, and her candidature has been challenged in court by the father of one of the men who died in the Malegaon blast.