Mumbai: Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast and the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal, recently hailed a mixture of cow urine and other cow products for curing her breast cancer. But, her claims may not be all true.
Thakur has undergone at least three surgeries related to a tumour in her breast, the last one being a preventive mastectomy in 2017, Dr S.S. Rajput, the surgeon who performed these procedures, told ThePrint.
Thakur has even admitted in writing that she underwent an operation for breast cancer in her response to a recent petition, challenging her candidature in the Lok Sabha elections.
“After the 2017 bail (of Pragya Thakur), we did a preventive prophylactic bilateral mastectomy at the Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow. We have full proof of this, all the documents are in place,” said Rajput, a cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon at the hospital.
Prophylactic bilateral mastectomy involves removal of breasts as a preventive measure for women, who are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
A reply filed by Thakur’s advocates in response to a 19 April petition, seeking to bar her from contesting the upcoming election, said, “It is submitted that when the bail application on behalf of the respondent/accused was considered, she was suffering from breast cancer…”
The reply, a copy of which has been accessed by ThePrint, further said after the Bombay High Court granted bail to Thakur on 25 April 2017, and she was released from jail, “she was operated in Ram Manohar Lohia Medical Institute, Lucknow, for the ailment of breast cancer…”
The reply added that Thakur has also been taking ayurvedic medical treatment in Bangalore, Lucknow and now Bhopal since she was granted bail.
Rajput told ThePrint he had been treating Thakur since 2008 when she first had a “breast tumour at the right side”, on which he operated at Mumbai’s JJ Hospital.
“It was a fibroid. At that time, it did not mention cancer. In 2011, in Bhopal, at the same spot in the right breast in the upper quadrant, the tumour recurred. When a recurrence happens, the chances of cancer are high, so we performed a quadrantectomy,” the surgeon said.
Quadrantectomy is a partial mastectomy and involves an operation to remove the cancer and some normal tissue around it without removing the breasts itself. The surgery in Bhopal was conducted at a private clinic.
“We sent the tumour to the Indian Cancer Society, Breach Candy (Mumbai), for a check-up. The Breach Candy report said that it is a carcinoma breast. The auxiliary lymph nodes were clear and because we got the entire clearance, we did not perform any more surgeries,” Rajput added.
The next surgery by Rajput was directly after Thakur’s bail in 2017 when he performed the mastectomy. At the time of her bail in 2017, Thakur was admitted to a Bhopal-based Ayurvedic hospital.
Even as Thakur underwent at least two surgeries related to her tumour till 2011, while arguing for her bail in the Bombay High Court in 2013, she expressed her unwillingness to receive any medical treatment while in jail.
“A communication has been received from the applicant through the Superintendent of Central District Jail, Bhopal…It appears that the applicant is not ready to undergo any treatment so long as she is in jail,” Justice R.C. Chavan of the Bombay High Court said while hearing Thakur’s bail plea on 18 January 2013.
Questions over cancer
From her arrest to her release, Thakur made several attempts to get bail, citing the merits of the case as well as her deteriorating health.
She was first denied bail in 2009 by a lower court after which she approached the Bombay High Court, which also rejected her bail plea. At that time, there was no mention of cancer or any other medical ailments and the application was purely based on grounds of alleged illegal custody and the lack of substance in the prosecution’s contentions.
Thakur’s bail application, however, mentioned that she was kept in the ICU of Mumbai’s Sushrusha Hospital for three to four days and then shifted to another hospital.
The Bombay High Court once again denied Thakur’s bail on 4 April 2014. This time, she had cited lack of substance in the case against her as well as probable cancer. Rajput, too, was present at one of the first hearings of the bail plea on 14 December 2012, ready to be examined regarding Thakur’s health if need be. The judge, however, did not examine Rajput.
During the hearing, the prosecution had in February 2013 raised doubts over the authenticity of the Indian Cancer Research Society report signed by Dr Sameer Pathan that Thakur had submitted to show that she was suffering from cancer. The prosecution raised questions over exactly when the tissue sample was taken and sent to the Indian Cancer Research Society, and requested for fresh samples to be taken with her consent.
Thakur’s lawyer submitted another report dated 4 February 2014, issued by the Bhopal-based Jawaharlal Nehru Cancer Hospital & Research Centre. The court, however, denied her bail, saying government hospitals were well-equipped to give her treatment, and the material available on record clearly indicated that Thakur was a conspirator in the Malegaon blasts case.
The court eventually granted her bail on 25 April 2017, citing the prima facie lack of a case against her, while also taking note of her medical ailments.