Seventy-one former bureaucrats have signed an open letter urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party to withdraw Malegaon blasts accused Pragya Thakur’s candidature for the Lok Sabha polls, PTI reported. The civil servants, including former Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio Ribeiro, said her nomination is an insult to the memory of former Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare.

The BJP’s decision to field Thakur from Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency has led to opposition from various quarters including the families of the blast victims. Last week, Thakur had claim that she had cursed Karkare leading to his death in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

The bureaucrats said the party’s decision to select Thakur as its candidate for the Bhopal parliamentary seat propounds her “brand of bigotry”. “In her worldview, anyone who has the audacity to investigate a self-styled ‘Hindu’ religious leader in a ‘Hindu’ country earns divine wrath and therefore would naturally be destroyed,” said in an open letter.

They called on Modi to “take the lead in putting an end to the climate of fear and intimidation and communal viciousness that seems to be percolating into the entire electoral process”. Their letter also demanded that the prime minister unequivocally condemned Thakur’s statement.

“This decision [Thakur’s candidature] could have been dismissed as yet another example of political expediency but for the enthusiastic endorsement by no less a person than the Prime Minister of India [Narendra Modi], who has termed her candidature as a symbol of our civilisational heritage,” the letter said.

The letter further said: “He [Modi] cannot escape the irony of his party seeking votes in the name of fighting terrorism and at the same time endorsing the candidature of a person accused of terror crimes. Martyrdom cannot be selectively appropriated or given up for the pursuit of political ambition.”

The former civil servants said the saffron party’s decision dishonoured their former colleague and described it as an ultimate shock that has “saddened us beyond words”.

Other signatories include ex-Pune Police Commissioner Meeran Borwankar and former Prasar Bharati chief executive officer Jawhar Sircar.

Thakur is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts, in which six people were killed and 101 injured. She is facing charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other sections of the Indian Penal Code. The Bombay High Court had granted bail to her in April 2017, noting that she had been in jail for more than eight years and was suffering from breast cancer.

A group of 200 people, including family members of victims of the 2008 Malegaon blasts and activists, from Maharashtra will travel to Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh to campaign against Thakur, The Indian Express reported on Thursday.