Pragya Thakur and Narendra Modi - India News

For nearly a decade, Pragya Thakur was known mostly as the saffron-clad Hindu ascetic shuttling in and out of Indian courts, flanked by police, facing charges under an anti-terrorism law for plotting a bomb attack on Muslims. Last month, the 49-year-old was fielded as a candidate by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the current general election, in which he is seeking a second term. Overnight, Thakur, who has been out on bail since 2017, emerged as a symbol of a Hindu nationalist movement that is showing increasing intolerance towards Muslims in the Hindu-dominated nation. The five years of Modi’s rule have seen an increasing number of attacks on Muslims by right-wing groups. But the brazenness of Thakur’s candidacy has still stunned many. It’s the first time a leading political party in India has fielded a candidate accused of terrorism in an election. “They are addressing a very extreme form of the Hindutva fold,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi-based biographer of Modi, referring to the BJP’s Hindu-first ideology. Thakur says she had nothing to do with the 2008 explosion near several mosques in the Muslim-majority town of Malegaon in western India. Six Muslims were killed and more than a hundred people injured. According to court filings, the motorcycle on which the explosives were strapped was Thakur’s, and she was among those who planned the attack to avenge “jihadi activities.” Indian law allows candidates charged with crimes to contest elections, but not convicts. The trial against…

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