A man allegedly having links with rightwing outfit 'Sanatan Sanstha' was on Wednesday arrested in connection with the killing of veteran Communist leader and rationalist Govind Pansare in February this year.
Sameer Gaikwad, in his early 30s, was arrested from Sangli early on Wednesday after a joint operation by Kolhapur and Sangli police. Police said Gaikwad has some criminal backgound. He was produced in a court at Kolhapur in western Maharashtra which remanded him in police custody till September 23.
Pansare was gunned down outside his home in Sagar Mala locality of Kolhapur city on February 16 and succumbed to his injuries on February 20 at Mumbai's Breach Candy Hospital.
The arrest comes close on the heels of the recent killing of Kannada scholar and researcher M M Kalburgi at Dharwad in Karnataka on August 30. Another rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was killed in Pune in 2013.
Left parties and rationalist forums have voiced deep concern over the delay in tracking down and apprehending the killers of these social activists and held that fundmanetal elements could be behind these murders.
The Karnataka government yesterday announced Rs 5 lakh reward to those who could provide clues about the murder of Kalburgi. Dabholkar, who spent much of his life exposing sham rituals, miracles, black magic, and godmen, was murdered in Pune in 2013 and there has been no breakthrough in his case yet.
Pansare's family has been demanding a probe into the Communist leader's murder. They had also filed a petition in the Bombay High Court which had asked Maharashtra government to file its response to the petition seeking constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the killing.
Till now, the probe by police teams had not yielded much apart from vaguely probable sketches of the assassins and the recovery of a couple of motorbikes from Kolhapur city which were suspected to have been used by the killers.
Govind and Uma Pansare were returning home from their morning walk on February 16, when two unidentified assailants on a motorbike shot at the anti-toll crusader five times. Before they escaped, they also pushed Uma to the ground.
Three of the bullets hit Govind, and he succumbed to his injuries in a Mumbai hospital four days later. Uma sustained a fracture on the left side of her skull, which has led to partial paralysis on her right side. However, she is able to speak. Uma was the sole eyewitness to the shooting incident and was the only person who got a proper glimpse of the assailants.
-With inputs from Chaitraly Deshmukh