Terror net scoops up fiery sadhvi - Woman owner of Malegaon bike bomb

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  • Published 25.10.08

Oct. 24: A young sadhvi known for bashing up rogue Romeos and flaunting her prowess with the rifle was slapped with murder charges along with two men for last month’s blast in Maharashtra’s Malegaon.

The arrests were made by the Mumbai anti-terrorist squad (ATS) over the past one week from Surat, where the sadhvi, Pragya Singh Thakur, is now based, and from Madhya Pradesh.

Joint commissioner of Mumbai police and ATS chief Hemant Karkare said: “We have arrested Pragya Singh Chandrapal Singh Thakur alias Purna Chetananand Giri, 38, Shivnarain Gopal Singh Kalsaangra, 36, and Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu, 42, for plotting the Malegaon explosions. They have been produced in a Nashik court and we (the police) have their custody till November 3.”

Public prosecutor Ajay Mishra said the trio had been slapped with charges of murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity between different groups on religious grounds. They were also booked under the explosives act.

The ATS claimed its probe had revealed that RDX was used in the September explosion just ahead of Id. The blast killed five persons.

The remand application mentioned that among other evidence, the police had recorded telephone conversations of up to 400 minutes between Pragya and her co-accused after the blast.

Karkare said Pragya had taken sanyas in 2007 and set up two organisations, the Jai Vande Mataram Janakalyan Samiti and the Rashtriya Janjagran Manch, in Indore.

As evidence of her involvement, the ATS said the LML Freedom motorcycle on which the bomb had been placed was found registered in her name.

The rear portion of the bike was mangled, and the probe showed that the chassis number and the original registration number had been tampered with.

The police were not forthcoming on the evidence against the other two. Sources said Shyam Sahu ran a SIM card shop in Indore.

Pragya’s father C.P. Singh Thakur, 68, an ayurvedic doctor in Surat, scoffed at the “flimsy evidence” and claimed that his daughter had sold the motorcycle but had forgotten to whom and that she did not have any papers to show for that.

“She has been arrested because she could not name the person she sold her motorcycle to,” said Thakur.

Thakur recalled that Pragya, during her college days in Madhya Pradesh, was a prominent, and feared, student leader. She would ride a motorcycle and severely beat up rogue Romeos harassing girls, earning admiration in a male-dominated society.

Pragya is believed to be a former member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP, and the Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. In 2001, she is said to have got herself photographed practising rifle shooting at a camp organised by the Durga Vahini.

The BJP is fighting shy of defending the accused as the party leadership does not want to be clubbed with those who are defending the accused in the Jamianagar encounter.

BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said: “Our only objection is they are being described as Hindu terrorists. CPM leader Brinda Karat called them Hindu terrorists. We have categorically said we don’t link religion with terrorism.”

The Congress is still wary of going ballistic with the issue as it is trying to ascertain Pragya’s credentials as an insider of the ABVP. She is also believed to be a disciple of Swami Avadeshanand Maharaj, who is close to a Union minister and his politician son.