Bhopal: Two days after joining the BJP and being fielded for Lok Sabha polls, Malegaon bomb blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur on Friday said then Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare had died during the 26/11 terror attack because of her "curse", triggering a major outcry following which she apologized.Thakur, who is out on bail after serving over nine years in jail in connection with the September 29, 2008 blast in Maharashtra's Malegaon in which six people were killed and nearly 100 injured, recounted at a public meeting here the episode of her arrest and interrogation in the case.
The 48-year-old, who has a long association with the Sangh Parivar, claimed that when she was in a Mumbai jail, the head of the probe had called Karkare and said that she should be released as there was "no evidence" against her.
"Then Karkare asked me various questions and I replied 'God knows'. At this, Karkare asked whether he would have to go to the God to get the answers. Then, I told him that he would be destroyed and he was cursed... within a month and a half, he fell victim to the terrorists' bullets," said Thakur who has been fielded by the BJP from Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency against Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.
Karkare was killed on the night of November 26, 2008 when 10 terrorists from Pakistan struck Mumbai at various places.
"Hindus believe that a period of one and a half month after anyone's birth or death is of ritual impurity. When Karkare asked me these questions, this period started for him and ended with him being killed by the terrorists," said Thakur, who was born in Bhind area of Madhya Pradesh.
The comments triggered a major outcry, with parties like the Congress, AAP and AIMIM, besides the Indian Police Service Association, condemning her remarks.
In the evening, Thakur said, "It was my personal pain. I take back my statement and apologise."
She said she was taking back her remarks as she "felt that the enemies of the country are being benefited" from it.
She said Karkare was a "martyr" who died from the bullets of terrorists from the enemy country.
Earlier, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, condemning the comments, demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and action against her.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh lashed out at Sadhvi Pragya for insulting a decorated dead police officer and accused her of dragging the current nationalism discourse to a new low.
In a hard-hitting reaction to the "sickening and repulsive" comment, he said: "That woman cannot be sane. No person in their sane mind can think or talk like that, and that too about a police officer who sacrificed his life for the nation."
The AAP said BJP must apologize for insulting Karkare, with its chief Arvind Kejriwal calling the comments "disgraceful".
AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi also slammed Thakur's comment.
"Hemant Karkare died fighting people not very different from yourself. He didn't die because a terror accused 'felt bad' and 'cursed' him. The man died fighting to protect our rights to vote and elect a government," he said, adding: "How dare BJP insult our martyrs like this?"
In a tweet from its official handle, the IPS (Central) Association said: "Ashok Chakra awardee late Hemant Karkare, IPS, made the supreme sacrifice fighting terrorists. Those of us in uniform condemn the insulting statement made by a candidate and demand that sacrifices of all our martyrs be respected."
Amid the outrage, the BJP distanced itself from Thakur's comments.
BJP leader and former Union Minister Shahnawaz Hussain told media: "Those who died for the country, we consider them martyrs. We don't raise questions on their martyrdom."
BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said that the remarks might be Thakur's point of view.
"We respect every son and daughter of India who sacrificed their lives for motherland. What Pragyaji has said, that would evidently be her point of view perhaps because she herself underwent an investigation. We salute sacrifice of Karkareji and would not do politics on it," he said.
Thakur was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. She was granted bail by the Bombay High Court in 2017.
Charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against her have been dropped and she is now being tried under the stringent anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).