Sadhvi Deva Thakur, a self-proclaimed Indian god-woman who was on the run for three days after firing celebratory shots in the air at a wedding, has surrendered to a court. The groom’s aunt was killed and three of his relatives critically wounded in the incident. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey profiles this controversial preacher.
In a video of the incident that took place on Tuesday in the northern state of Haryana, Sadhvi Deva Thakur is first seen firing from a revolver and then a double-barrelled gun. A few of her guards are also seen shooting along with her.
Indian media reports quoted stunned guests at the wedding as saying that the Sadhvi, which is the Hindi word for holy woman or god woman, walked up to the dance floor, asked the DJ to play a song of her choice, and began dancing.
And, much to the horror of everyone around, shooting.
Reports said families of both the bride and the groom pleaded with her to stop, but their entreaties fell on deaf ears.
It was only when the groom’s 50-year-old aunt collapsed after being hit by a stray bullet and three others were critically injured, that the firing stopped.
In the confusion that followed, the Sadhvi and her six guards escaped.
Police registered a case of murder against the seven and, on Friday, the Sadhvi surrendered in a magistrate’s court. She has been remanded to police custody for five days. Her guards are still on the run.
“I am innocent. I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s a conspiracy against me,” she told reporters after her surrender. “I’m very sad that someone died at that event,” she added.
But this is not the first time that Sadhvi Thakur, vice-president of a fringe Hindu organisation All India Hindu Mahasabha, has been in the news for the wrong reasons.
Last year, police registered a case against her for saying that Muslims and Christians must undergo sterilisation to restrict their growing populations.
“The population of Muslims and Christians is growing every day. To control this, the government should bring in a law to stop Muslims and Christians from producing so many children. They should be forced to undergo sterilisation so that they can’t increase their numbers,” she told a gathering.
The Sadhvi said she agreed with some Hindu nationalist leaders’ suggestionthat Hindu women must have more children to counter the threat of becoming a minority religion in their own country.
“How do you compete with a line that keeps getting longer? You draw a line next to it that’s even longer,” she said.
In another controversial remark, the DNA newspaper quoted her as saying that idols of Hindu gods and goddesses should be placed in mosques and churches and that a statue of Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, should be installed in Haryana.
The Sadhvi was born and grew up in Bras, a small village in Karnal district, and a few years ago set up an ashram in her village. She has a small following and most of her followers are local villagers.
A local journalist says she is a known publicity-seeker with a fancy lifestyle.
The 27-year-old is always dressed in saffron robes from head to toe. She appears to have a fondness for gold jewellery, and guns.
Her Facebook page, managed by her brother Rajeev Thakur, describes her as the director of the Deva India Foundation and has her proclaiming to be “a nationalist”.
She joined the Hindu Mahasabha two years ago.
Dharampal Siwach, a senior Hindu Mahasabha member in Haryana, told the BBC that he travelled along with the Sadhvi to their party’s Delhi headquarters two years ago.
“She was appointed as the national vice-president of the party after I lobbied on her behalf,” he said.
“But soon we stopped inviting her to our functions and events because she was getting photographed with guns and that made us very uncomfortable.”
The video of Tuesday’s tragic incident is a testimony to her love for weaponry. And this time, it seems, she may have shot herself in the foot.