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23 Feb 2015

PUDR expresses its condemnation and grief at the death of respected social activist and CPI leader, 82 year old Govind Pansare on 20 February 2015 as a result of the murderous attack on him and his wife Uma Pansare by gun carrying assailants in Kolhapur four days earlier. Govind Pansare had been actively and intensely involved in a wide range of social and political struggles throughout his life. He was an AITUC leader and set up the Shramik Pratishthan, through which he organised cultural programmes to challenge both the religio-cultural right and powerful vested economic interests. He also organized Com. Annabhau Sathe Sahitya Sammelans to invoke literary, cultural traditions of resistance against caste, class, patriarchy and religion, and wrote popular books including the one on Shivaji, debunking myths built by the cultural nationalists around the Maratha ruler. He had recently been leading a strong and successful campaign against the setting up of several toll booths across Kolhapur imposing toll taxes on citizens for using roads. 

As an active member of “Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti” led by the late Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, he had also been campaigning against superstitious practices and exploitation of people under the guise of religion by fundamentalist, obscurantist forces. The shocking similarity between the murder of Dr. Dabholkar in Pune in August 2013 by gunmen while he was on his morning walk and that of Govind Pansare has been remarked upon in the press – it needs to be remembered that eighteen months after Dabholkar's murder none of the culprits have been caught. Identical methods were used to murder RTI activist Satish Shetty in Talegaon, Maharashtra in January 2010 where he had been campaigning against land-grab by IRB Infrastructure Developers. Incidentally this is the company that runs the toll booths that Pansare was protesting against. Over five years after Satish Shetty's murder, those responsible have not been identified, and a closure report was filed in the case in August 2014. However, on the morning Com. Pansare was attacked, the CBI claimed it would reopen Satish Shetty’s murder case in the light of new evidence it claimed it had discovered. 

In all cases, delay in justice not only amounts to its denial but also to a stimulus to commit more such crimes. It is particularly urgent to punish the criminal forces as these murders are violently trying to silence the voices of those fighting for rights, for reason, against communal forces and social injustices. Delay in justice here amounts to impunity for the forces Govind Pansare and the others fought against and is thus utterly fatal for democratic rights. Whether Govind Pansare was murdered by Hindu fundamentalist, communal groups whom he challenged or the companies whose profits were affected by his committed activism, or by a conspiracy of the two, PUDR demands that all those guilty of his murder should be identified, charged and prosecuted without any further delay. PUDR hails the efforts of Govind Pansare, Dr. Dabholkar and Satish Shetty in the struggle against vested and anti-people forces and giving real meaning to democracy.

Sharmila Purkayastha and Megha Bahl