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Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur

Affiliation: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
Vocation/Title: Politician
Location: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

Pragya Singh Thakur is a Hindu extremist monk and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician, serving as the current Member of Parliament (MP) of India from the electoral constituency of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Her early involvement with several affiliate groups of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) traces back to her active membership in its student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), during her college years.

Thakur joined the ABVP in 1993, serving as the group’s state secretary before her departure in 1997. She was also associated with the extremist groups Hindu Jagran Manch, the Rashtrawadi Sena, and the Bajrang Dal’s women’s wing, Durga Vahini. Most notably, she is among the founding members of the Vande Mataram Jan Kalyan Samiti, an offshoot of the RSS.

Thakur is one of the prime accused in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast near a mosque in Maharashtra, which left at least 10 dead and 100 injured. A motorbike registered in Thakur’s name was recovered from the site. It is suspected by experts that the explosives used to trigger the blast were placed on the same bike that belonged to Thakur.

Consequently, she was arrested on terrorism-related charges and has since been awaiting trial for several offenses under anti-terrorism laws. In 2017, the National Investigation Agency dropped a number of major charges against her, leading to her release on bail due to health reasons. 

Thakur actively participated in the 2019 general election and emerged victorious from the Bhopal constituency, garnering significant attention. According to political analyst Christophe Jaffrelot, she became the “symbol” of the 2019 election, in which hazy peripheral components of the Hindutva ideology became popular.

Her remarks during the campaign and subsequent statements in public forums, often targeting the Muslim community, have attracted considerable criticism and legal consequences. During the 2019 general election, Thakur made remarks about her involvement in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, in 1992. These comments prompted the Election Commission of India to request the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against her and resulted in her being prohibited from campaigning for 72 hours for violating the Model Code of Conduct and inflaming communal tensions.

Thakur was appointed to the 21-person parliamentary consultative committee, under the leadership of Defense Minister Rajnath Singh in November 2019. However, her tenure in the parliamentary group was marred by controversy when she referred to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, as a patriot during a parliamentary session. This statement led to her expulsion from BJP parliamentary group meetings and the defense committee on November 28, 2019.

As both a monk and a politician, Thakur has become a Hindu supremacist icon and is frequently invited to hate speech events throughout the country. She has been involved in multiple criminal cases related to promoting hostility against minorities. 

In December 2020, at an event organized by the Hindu Jagaran Vitike in Mumbai, she propagated the anti-Muslim conspiracy theory of love jihad and called for violence. She openly advocated for the killing of Muslims and urged Hindus to maintain weapons, stating, “if nothing else, at least keep your knives sharp.”

In April 2020, she targeted Muslims while addressing the media regarding a surge of Hindu mob-led violence that occurred during the Hindu festival of Ram Navmi across several states in India. She held Muslims responsible for the violence, suggesting that they have a country (referring to Pakistan) based on religion and could go there.

In a press conference in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, in May 2020, Thakur claimed that the late Hemant Karkare, former head of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in Mumbai, died because she had “cursed him” for supposedly mistreating her in prison due to her connection with the 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts case.

In February 2022, she sparked controversy by commenting on Karnataka state’s ban on hijabs in schools and subsequent protests by Muslim women. Thakur defended the ban, declaring, “[there is] no need to wear hijab anywhere” and alleging that only Muslim women who are “not safe in their homes” need to wear hijabs. She further insinuated that there was no need for hijabs in the company of the Hindu community, particularly in educational institutions, suggesting that Muslim men were of a predatory nature.

In June 2023, she propagated the anti-Muslim conspiracy theory of love jihad by sharing an anecdote in which she claimed to have dissuaded a 19-year-old Hindu girl from marrying a Muslim boy named Yusuf. She alleged that Muslims entangle Hindu girls in romantic relationships to convert them to Islam.

In July 2023, Thakur shared a video on X, promoting a conspiracy theory alleging that the opposition Congress Party and a local Muslim political party were conspiring to transform the state of Kerala into an Islamic state. She also propagated the false claims of a Hindu genocide occurring in the state, further contributing to heightened tensions.