Dangerous signs

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Even after 70 years of independence, democratic institutions, courts and law enforcing agencies appear to have miserably failed in de-criminalising politics in the country. It is unfortunate that the largest number of politicians facing criminal cases including framing of charges for heinous crimes and those related to terror incidents have been representing the common masses in the outgoing Parliament. Most of those facing heinous criminal charges belong to Saffron Parivaar or its political arm BJP and the latter does not shy away from these issues. This is mainly for the reason that the right wing political party takes pride in showing off the celebrity status of its members without any qualms over the criminal charges faced by them. Apart from those who have already won elections and occupied the highest seat of democracy in the Parliament, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is the latest addition to contest the on-going parliamentary elections on behalf of the BJP. There is no doubt, she enjoys the celebrity status of being one of the main accused in Samjhuta, Malegaon and Mecca Masjid blasts in which hundreds of innocent people were killed and murder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist in Madhya Pradesh, the party thinks it is to their benefit to win a Lok Sabha seat in Bhopal. She is out on bail for the reasons that she was not keeping a good health while in prison for the last more than a decade, but the BJP thought it fit to field her as a candidate in Bhopal to exploit the potential for her victory. It appears that the BJP has ridiculed the Supreme Court’s optimism on enactment of laws for barring such candidates from contesting elections if they were found involved in serious criminal cases anywhere in the country. The SC directions were to the fact that all the candidates should inform their parties if any criminal cases are pending against them and then put them in public domain for the information of the general public. The electorate can have the required information about the criminal activities and cases pending against the candidates in their constituencies through such websites. It is also unfortunate that while announcing the Sadhvi Pragya Thankur as a BJP’s candidate from Bhopal it proudly described her as someone, who was born to keep the nation secure. Former MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan stated that she was a victim of the Congress conspiracy to ‘defame Hindus’ forgetting the fact she was accused of terror-related crime when he was the chief minister of BJP-led government in 2008. It is also sad that in a campaign speech in Wardha earlier this month, prime minister Narendra Modi said Hindus would never forgive the Congress for this and would punish the party for ‘Hindu terror’ slur. It is ironical that the Sadhvi – seen by her critics as an exemplar of Hindutva extremism and by the BJP as the poster child of the defamed Hindu – was first accused of terrorism-related crime by the BJP government in MP. It should not be forgotten that on September 23, 2008, Chouhan’s own police arrested Sadhvi Thakur and eight others for their alleged involvement in the murder of RSS man Sunil Joshi in Dewas district of MP. The question arises how the Sadhvi, who is facing Malegaon blast and terror-related case trial could be the protector of the nation. Sunil Joshi, whose name figured in Mecca Masjid, Samjhuta and Malegaon blast cases was shot dead on December 29, 2007 in Dewas and ten months later in October, Sadhvi Thakur and others were arrested. Somehow, the police closed the case on the orders of Dewas SP and she was released without any explanation. Joshi was charge-sheeted by National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Samjhauta train blast case. A year later, MP police reopened the murder case and filed a charge-sheet against her and issued arrest warrant but she was already in jail. If this is the situation for such candidates, the common masses should understand what will be the fate of the democracy if such people are contesting elections and win. By acting in such a manner, the BJP-government has not only ridiculed the SC optimism but also put the democratic institutions to shame by not de-criminalising the politics in the country. Surely, these are dangerous signs for Indian democracy.