On Monday morning, the CPI leader and his wife were out on their usual morning walk in their hometown of Kolhapur when they were shot at by motorcycle-borne assailants. The modus operandi bears grave parallels to the 2013 killing of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar in Pune, said activists and politicians of the state.
Activists near CST demand the arrest of the accused. Pic/Atul Kamble
Govind Pansare, a veteran leader, was highly critical of right-wing forces and corruption in the system, which he vocalised through his public speeches and writings. He was currently leading the agitation against toll tax in Kolhapur, the sugar capital of the state.
Anti-superstition activist Dabholkar was shot at and killed one-and-half year back, when he was also out for a morning walk. His killers are still at large. Three years before the rationalist’s murder, an RTI activist Satish Shetty was also stabbed to death when he was out for a morning stroll.
Dabholkar had invited the wrath of people for his activism against superstition. Investigating agencies are still searching for clues to find the accused. Before Shetty’s murder, he had tried to dig out information in the alleged irregularities in investment made by a big real estate and infrastructure company. Just yesterday, the CBI decided to reinvestigate the murder after new evidence was recovered in January.
Pansare, known for his work for the underprivileged and going beyond his leftist ideology to help people, even if they were associated with other political parties, is considered a father figure to many. Sources told mid-day that he had recently made a few statements against right-wing parties of all religions.
Activist Medha Patkar demanded of the police to find the connection between Dabholkar’s murder and the attack on Pansare couple. “Cops should probe the recent speeches given by Pansare,” she said, asking the Chief Minister to find out the people behind “such cowardly acts.”
Dabholkar’s daughter Mukta said, “These attacks are a pre-planned conspiracy. These are attacks on secularism.” NCP chief Sharad Pawar condemned the attack, calling it an attempt to muzzle voices that stand for their ideology. He said Dabholkar’s murder was also an attack on people who speak against extreme forces.
Maharashtra Congress President Manikrao Thakre said that the attack showed a similar pattern that was observed in the rationalist’s killing. “Events like these make us ask if people with different ideologies have been targeted systematically in recent times. This is a bad sign for a progressive state like Maharashtra, where freedom of expression is paramount.”
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also heads the home department of the state, said that the attack was being investigated from all angles. “Ten teams of cops are on the job. We will soon have a breakthrough and arrest the assailants,” he told reporters, adding that the Director General of Police will supervise the investigations.
The attack evoked a state-wide protest on Monday. Activists, intellectuals, trade unions and people from the unorganised sector, took to the streets in Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and other major cities demanding the arrest of the accused.