Nearly 700 km from the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Mumbai where the NIA filed a charge-sheet in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case and gave a clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya Singh, she herself sat unaware of the proceedings, following her daily routine at the Bhopal Central Prison. The first person to break the news to her was her brother-in-law, Bhagwan Jha.
“She was very happy when I broke the news to her. She said that this has happened due to the blessings of Thakurji (the Almighty God), and she thanked him. ‘I think, due to the blessings of Thakurji, I will be able to go back in society, I will be able to enlighten people about rashtra dharma (nationalism)’, she told me,” Bhagwan Jha told The Sunday Guardian from Bhopal.
On a day of hectic media frenzy in Mumbai and Delhi, the man who ran around the most for the case was nowhere to be seen in either of the cities. Bhagwan Jha, a simply-clad man, who was, for years, seen running between various courts, talking to lawyers, going through applications, conversing in chaste Hindi, was missing. His usual number was switched off. When finally contacted after hours of effort, he said he wasn’t aware that the charge-sheet was to be filed that day. The elated brother-in-law quietly celebrated the moment with his “Didi”, the elder sister, the “ascetic who had taken sanyas for the well-being of society”.
“Her youngest sister is my wife. She is my Didi. What I do for her is what any family member would do for someone. On the background of the sacrifices she has made and the hardships she has endured, I have faced nothing,” he said.
Sadhvi, who is suffering from various illnesses including alleged breast cancer, lumbar spondylosis, could not bear the police torture, Jha said. “Though she is an ascetic and she has resigned from all rules of this earthly world, she has still been given the body of a woman by God. And a woman’s body is naturally very tender. It cannot withstand the brutalities of harsh blows and hard-hitting kicks. If a male police officer kicks her like a football, how will she be able to take it?” he asked.
It is noteworthy that Pragya has never claimed to the courts that she had been tortured. Her claim of torture was rejected by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra Police when an application was moved before the National Human Rights Commission, said advocate Ganesh Sovani who represented her. “It is a fact, and it is on record that we did not move any of the courts about the claim of torture,” he said further.
Moreover, Pragya herself had backtracked on her cancer claim before the Bombay High Court two years ago. During a hearing on her bail application in 2014, the Bombay High Court had observed that there was no medical evidence to prove that she was suffering from cancer. She had thereafter backtracked on her cancer claim.
“The medical report shows that it is simple tumour, and not cancer,” the division bench of Justices P.V. Hardas and A.S. Gadkari had observed, after perusing her medical reports on 12 February 2014. Barely a few minutes before that, her lawyer had claimed that she had been suffering from cancer.
When the court observed that the medical reports showed she was not diagnosed with cancer, senior counsel U.R. Lalit, who represented her, immediately backtracked. “She is sick. Though she is not suffering from cancer, she has lot of abdominal problems, spinal cord problems. She is in pain,” he had told the court.
A year earlier, it was this news of cancer that had killed Pragya’s father, Bhagwan Jha told The Sunday Guardian. “We had not disclosed the news of her cancer to him. But in 2013, the story ran in the media, and he saw it. The submission was made in court and the media covered it. Thereafter, he died of brain haemorrhage. It was painful, but I tried to convince myself that the work she was doing was for nation-building, and that sacrifices would have to be made in its path,” he said.
‘PRAGYA WAS ALWAYS OPTIMISTIC’
Bhagwan Jha claimed that throughout the period of eight years since her arrest in 2008, Pragya was optimistic. “She has been our power centre. She has always believed in her innocence. She used to tell us that her life is dedicated to society: ‘I have taken sanyas to spread awareness among people, to awaken them from slumber. I want to go about leading a social life and explaining to people how rashtra dharma should be brought about. I want to awaken them against corruption, atrocities. That is why I am born,’ she used to tell us,” he said. Pragya was an active member of ABVP in her young days. She was also associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
“In front of the sacrifices she has made, my individual hardships mean nothing,” he told this correspondent when asked about the trials and tribulations he had to face over the years. “We belong to the Thakur clan. We are born to fight evil powers. I never felt upset for the hardships I had to endure. But I always felt a little bitter that Didi had to suffer a lot, although she is innocent. She is a true patriot who wants to see the rise of her nation. And still she had to endure so much of pain,” Bhagwan Jha said.