How Pragya Singh Thakur, Sunil Joshi and Aseemanand planned the Samjhauta Express blast

17 April 2019
When images of the destruction brought Neera to tears, Pragya Singh Thakur asked her not to cry, because all the dead were Muslims.
AM FARUQUI/THE HINDU ARCHIVE
When images of the destruction brought Neera to tears, Pragya Singh Thakur asked her not to cry, because all the dead were Muslims.
AM FARUQUI/THE HINDU ARCHIVE

On 17 April, Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. She will contest in the upcoming elections from Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency, against the Congress leader Digvijay Singh. Thakur is a former national executive member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

On 29 September 2008, two bombs concealed in a motorcycle had exploded in the Muslim-dominated town of Malegaon in Maharashtra. Four persons were killed in the blast and 79 others were injured. Thakur was arrested in October 2008. In January 2009, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad stated that she owned the bike associated with the blast, and had given it to a co-accused Ramchandra Kalsangra, who planted the bomb and placed it at the blast site. The evidence the ATS presented against Thakur included statements from witnesses and co-accused, which placed her at meetings planning the blasts before its execution. But in 2016, the National Investigation Agency dropped Thakur and five others from the list of accused persons, claiming that “sufficient evidence have not been found” against them. The NIA said that the ATS had tortured a witness who made a statement indicting Thakur, and another witness against her retracted his statement. On these grounds, and arguing the bike used in the blast was not in her possession, the NIA issued Thakur a clean chit. On 24 April 2017, the Bombay High Court granted Thakur bail.

The Malegaon blasts were not the only terror attacks in which Thakur has been named. In the following excerpt from “The Believer,” The Caravan’s cover story for the February 2014 issue, Leena Gita Reghunath reported on Thakur’s interactions with Swami Aseemanand, who was also named, though not charged, in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case. Reghunath traces their role in planning and executing the bombing of the Samjhauta Express train in February 2007.

For the three years preceding the Shabari Kumbh, alongside preparing for the festival, Aseemanand had been meeting with several other long-time Sangh workers to discuss a problem far more distressing to them than religious conversions. At the core of this group were Pragya Singh Thakur, the executive member of the ABVP; and Sunil Joshi, the former RSS district leader in Indore.

Leena Gita Reghunath was formerly the editorial manager at The Caravan. She received the Mumbai Press Club's Red Ink award for her reporting in 2015 and 2018 and the Population First's Laadli Media Award for Gender Sensitivity in 2018.

Keywords: Elections 2019 Pragya Singh Thakur Bharatiya Janata Party Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Bhopal Digvijay Singh Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad Malegaon blasts Aseemanand Sunil Joshi
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