Rights

Two Years On, Justice For Govind Pansare Remains Elusive

On the second death anniversary of the CPI leader, a protest march and a public meeting were held to remember him and demand justice for his murder.

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March held to protest the delay in the investigation into the murder of Govind Pansare. Credit: Varsha Torgalkar

Kolhapur: “Let us continue to work toward equality of the society by holding constitution as God.” Over 1,000 activists from various social movements took this oath to commemorate Govinda Pansare on his second death anniversary on February 20 at Rajashri Shahoo Smarak in Kolhapur in Maharashtra. Raising slogans of ‘Amhi saare Pansare’ (We all are Pansare) and ‘Pansare amar rahe’ (Long live Pansare), over 100 activists held a ‘Nirbhay Morning Walk’ from his house till Rajashri Shahu Memorial. They also sang inspirational songs of change.

On February 16, 2015, Pansare and his wife Uma were shot at close range by two unknown assailants near their house while they were returning from their morning walk. Four days later, on February 20, Pansare succumbed to his injuries. Fortunately, his wife survived but she suffered a paralysis due to a bullet injury to her head.

Since then, activists have been holding the walk on the 20th of every month to protest the delay in the investigation into his murder.

Megha Pansare, his daughter-in-law and activist, said, “Despite a state government-appointed Special Investigation Team and a CBI enquiry, killers of Pansare are free. We had to file public interest litigation for the police and state government to accelerate the process of finding the killers. But there is no progress.”

Uma, who survived the attack, said, “We do not have hopes from this BJP government. Pansare received threats from Sanatan Sanstha, but he always said who would want to kill an old person like him. But despite our demand,  the government could not ban Sanatan Sanstha.”

Journalist Nikhil Wagle has also criticised the police, state government and judiciary for failing to bring the killers of rationalists like Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar to justice. “It has been three years since Dabholkar was killed and two years since Pansare was killed. the so-called secular government of Congress and BJP government do not have the will to find the killers.”

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Journalist Nikhil Wagle speaks at a public meeting held on February 20. Credit: Varsha Torgalkar

Veteran communist leader and a contemporary of Pansare, N. D. Patil, said, “This is the time to take to the streets without taking the law in our hands to put pressure on the government to move to nab the killers.”

Ganesh Devi, a Sahitya Academy winner, writer and a Padma Shri awardee, who was the chief guest at the programme organised on the occasion, said “The space for free expression and freedom is shrinking at great speed. Murders of Pansare and Dabholkar are an example of how fascist powers are trying to shut voices of freedom. But we need to fight the battle in available space.”

Progressive Writers’ Association visits Pansare’s family 

To express solidarity with the families of Pansare, Dabholkar and M. M. Kalburgi, 11 writers from the Progressive Writers’ Association, Madhya Pradesh travelled to Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. First, they met the family of Dabholkar, who was killed in the same way as Pansare in 2013. They then visited Dharwad to meet the family of Kalburgi, who was killed in his own house last year and then went on to meet Pansare’s family.

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Progressive Writers’ Association in Madhya Pradesh. Credit: Varsha Torgalkar

Vinit Tiwari, the general secretary of the association, said, “Though we came to express solidarity with the families of martyrs, we are inspired to see fearless and determined families who continued their fight for oppressed. We condemn respective governments for failing to nab killers and request them to give justice to martyrs by nabbing killers. Based on the experiences and literature and work of martyrs, we will write books, plays and hold discussions to spread their thoughts across Hindi speaking belt of India that consist of over 40 crore people.”

Legacy of Govind Pansare

Pansare was seen as an inspiration behind progressive and social movements across the state even though he was associated mainly with the Communist Party of India. He is credited for highlighting caste-based issues in Maharashtra. Left parties in India tend to stick with class struggle without focusing on caste and religion.

He authored 21 books but his interpretation of Shivaji in his book Shivaji Kon Hota went against that of right-wing ideologists. He portrayed Shivaji as a king of his rayat (people) who protected them from the enemy. He cited numerous examples from history to show that Shivaji had several Muslims in his army and administration. The interpretation angered Hindu radicalists who through years have portrayed Shivaji as the protector of Hindu dharma (religion) from attacks from other religions, especially from Islam invaders through plays like Janata Raja and through several books and novels.

File photo of a march commemorating Govind Pansare. Credit: PTI

File photo of a march commemorating Govind Pansare. Credit: PTI

Over two lakh copies of the book have been sold till now. In similar laymen terms, he also wrote books on Rajashri Shahu, a 19th-century reformist and Jyotiba Phule, a social reformer and activist. He inspired intellectuals to write books and published over 70 books.

Pansare was keen to spread to the youth the Left ideology, contributions of the past generation and history in its original form. He also insistent that a new generation of leadership in the progressive movement should be built. Hence for over 30 years, he held youth leadership camps where 100 youths were invited to participate.

Bhalchandra Kango, the secretary of Communist Party of India, Maharashtra, said, “We are trying to get Rs 25 lakh fund and will be holding youth camps every year as envisioned by Pansare. And his dream to build youth leadership will be kept alive.”

Pansare united thousands of women workers working as maids at households who were without the protection of minimum wage, health cover and so on. He was one of the major force behind the establishment of Maharashtra Rajya Gharelu Kammgar Mandal, a state government board for the welfare of domestic help. He also worked for farm labours and labours in unorganised sectors. Shramik Pratishthan, which was founded by Pansare, continues the work even after his death.