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‘Beaten up by male cops, electric shocks, made to listen to porn’: How Sadhvi Pragya Thakur was tortured in jail

Publication: DNA India
Date: April 18, 2019
URL:      https://www.dnaindia.com/india/photo-gallery-beaten-up-by-male-cops-electric-shocks-made-to-listen-to-porn-how-sadhvi-pragya-thakur-was-tortured-in-jail-2740688/amp?__twitter_impression=true

Out on bail, Thakur has been discharged by a court on charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the 2008 case, but is still facing trial under other criminal provisions including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in Lok Sabha elections from Bhopal against Congress heavyweight and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

Moments after the announcement of her candidature, she tore into Digvijay Singh, holding him responsible for defaming "Sanatan Dharma".

Out on bail, Thakur has been discharged by a court on charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the 2008 case, but is still facing trial under other criminal provisions including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Here's her story:

How she was tortured

In 2008, then NDA candidate LK Advani had said: "I cannot believe that such barbaric treatment has been meted out to a spiritual person, that too, a woman in a country that prides itself on its democracy and rule of law.”

Pragya has often claimed that she was the victim of a faux Hindu terror narrative created by UPA.

She was arrested in connection with the Malegaon blast case in which six people were killed and 100 injured when an explosive device went off near a mosque.

In total, she spent nine years in jail, and was given a clean chit by NIA in 2015. However, NIA’s views were rejected by court and she was arraigned under UAPA.

She made a litany of allegations of torture which included being beaten black and blue by male policemen. They made her listen to pornographic recordings with other male undertrials. She was reportedly denied cancer treatment in 2013.  She said she was beaten and starved, kept for days without food. She said policemen would beat her black and blue all day and only take breaks to rest.

She said her torture included electric shocks and she was also verbally abused.

DNA edit on custodial tortures from 2008

A DNA edit from 2008 read: "Two recent strictures by courts against the police in India bring into focus what should be considered a matter of shame – custodial torture. Both Pragya Thakur and Lt Col Purohit, accused in the Malegaon blasts case have alleged that they were tortured while in police custody. She has asserted the torture was physical and mental. The allegations have been taken seriously by the court, which has turned down requests by the Anti-Terror Squad for further custody and instead remanded her and the other key accused to judicial custody. This is apparently a very rare occurrence.

Coincidentally, a judicial inquiry instituted by the Bombay High Court has just revealed in its report that the accused in the 11/7 serial train blasts were very badly beaten up by prison staff while in custody. The report further indicts prison doctors for not treating those who were badly injured. The Mumbai police’s record in this matter is hardly exemplary —  they are already under the scanner for the custodial death of Khwaja Yunus.

Police torture is one of those peculiar subjects, where everyone knows about it but no one wants to talk about it. The allegations made by the Sadhvi are shocking, but it must be admitted that all too often civil society is not shocked enough. There is an underlying feeling that this is how the police must operate if it wants information—an underlying subtext is the feeling that the accused, who often in the public mind are already guilty, deserve no sympathy and have, somehow, lesser human rights.

But in any civilised society, everyone has some fundamental rights, even those accused of terror. India has been chary of ratified covenants such as the Convention Against Torture which we signed in 1997. Apparently, some fears were expressed about international scrutiny of local practices that such an agreement would entail. That is an irrational fear that diverts attention away from what is a deplorable practice. If India had a clean human rights record when it came to police custody, there would be no need for international scrutiny.

Her legal journey

 After a prolonged legal battle, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, faces an intense political fight after the BJP nominated her as party's candidate against Congress veteran Digvijay Singh from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat.Saffron-clad Thakur (48), sporting trademark short hair and a rudraksh mala, became the face of right-wing extremism after being arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad in the Malegaon blast case in 2008.

Six people were killed and over 100 injured in the blast.Thakur got bail in 2017 after fighting legal battles from special CBI court to the Supreme Court.After taking over the case in 2016, the NIA filed a charge sheet giving a clean chit to the Sadhvi and three others- Shyam Sahu, Praveen Takalki and Shivnarayan Kalsangra - saying it found no evidence against them and they should be discharged.

The NIA court absolved Sahu, Takalki and Kalsangra but said the Sadhvi will have to face charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other sections of the IPC including murder and criminal conspiracy.Born in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, Thakur has had a long association with the RSS.

Sadhvi vs Digvijaya

A post-graduate in history, she worked with the RSS student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Durga Vahini, women's wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.Sources said the BJP decided to field hardline Hindutva leader from Bhopal considering two factors: the Congress candidate in the seat is viewed as an RSS-basher and of the 18 lakh-plus voters in the city, 4.5 lakh are Muslims.

In the 2018 assembly elections, the Congress won three of the eight assembly segments in the Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency. In the remaining five seats that were bagged by the BJP, there was a slide in the saffron party's victory margin."I am ready for a dharma-yuddh," Thakur had told PTI last month, when her name started doing rounds as a probable BJP candidate.

"I am ready to take on Digvijay Singh if sanghatan (organisation) asks me to do so," she had said, calling the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister an "anti-Hindu leader who called Hindus terrorists".
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