Expel Pragya from party, parliament

A terror under trial in Parliament is a disgrace

Pragya Thakur, the BJP member of parliament from Bhopal, has gone too far with her repeated airing of objectionable and extremist views. On Wednesday, she interrupted a debate in the Lok Sabha to describe Nathuram Godse, who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, as a patriot. She had said this during the Lok Sabha election campaign, too, in April-May. Her comment in the Lok Sabha has triggered angry protests from Opposition parties, who have moved a censure motion against her and have demanded that she apologise unconditionally to the House. They also staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha. In a belated attempt at damage control, BJP working president J P Nadda promised disciplinary action against Pragya. He has announced that she would not be allowed to participate in its parliamentary party meetings and that she would be dropped from the parliamentary consultative committee on defence. However, the action is too little, too late. 

Although BJP leaders have sought to distance the party from her statement, they cannot escape responsibility for her political elevation despite her being a terror undertrial. Pragya is among those indicted in the Malegaon blast case of 2007, a terror attack that left six people dead and over a hundred others injured. Indeed, as late as 2017, when the National Investigation Agency dropped some serious charges against her, the trial court refused to discharge her from the case because there was enough prima facie evidence against her to be charged and tried. She was only given bail on health grounds, but she continues to face multiple charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Still, the BJP had no qualms in facilitating her entry into parliament. Last week, it even nominated her to the parliamentary consultative committee on defence. 

The BJP often projects itself as the only robust guardian of India’s national security. Indeed, it made national security the key plank of its election campaign. Yet, it allowed, endorsed and enabled Pragya’s spectacular rise in the political arena. The Modi government has done enormous damage to India’s credentials as a democracy and a key actor in the world’s fight against terrorism through its endorsement of Pragya. This damage cannot be undone just by removing her from the parliamentary panel on defence, a role for which she was grossly unsuitable anyway, or asking her to stay out of parliamentary party meetings. Her very presence in parliament is offensive. If the BJP is sincere in its respect and regard for Gandhi and its disavowal of terrorism, it should expel her from the party. The Modi government must distance itself from terrorism and terrorists, whatever their religious identity or ideology.

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