Anti-toll tax crusader Govind Pansare shot at five times during morning walk

Feb 17, 2015, 10:56 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Three of the bullets hit veteran CPI leader Govind Pansare, two of which passed through and through, and one lodged in his abdominal cavity; the attackers also pushed his wife to the ground before escaping

Veteran CPI leader Govind Pansare (82) well-known for his crusade against corruption and, more recently, the toll tax system is now battling for his life after he was shot down by unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle during his morning walk yesterday.

Govind Pansare Uma Pansare
Govind Pansare and his wife Uma were on a morning walk when unidentified gunmen shot at him and pushed his wife down before escaping

The fact that the incident is eerily similar to the unsolved 2013 murder of anti-superstition campaigner Dr Narendra Dabholkar, has Govind’s daughter-in-law Megha even more worried and insecure. “I want tight security for my family, as the police have not been able to even identify the assailants till now.

Cops found five empty bullet shells at the crime scene; Govind Pansare was hit by three bullets, two of which passed through and through, while one was lodged in his abdominal cavity
Cops found five empty bullet shells at the crime scene; Govind Pansare was hit by three bullets, two of which passed through and through, while one was lodged in his abdominal cavity

We do not know who they are and how they look. They may be just around us,” said Megha, waiting outside the ICU at Aster Aadhar hospital, Kolhapur, where both her father and mother have been admitted. She pointed out that although the police had not managed to apprehend Dabholkar’s assassins, she hoped they would catch her father’s attackers at the earliest.

“We have already deployed armed policemen at the hospital and will give required protection to the family. We are working on some leads, which cannot be shared at this moment, but are probing the matter from all the possible angles,” said Inspector General of Police, Kolhapur Range Ritesh Kumar.

The shooting
Around 9.15 am, Govind and his wife Uma (72) were returning from their morning walk and were barely 50 feet from their house, Sagar Mahal, in Pratibha Nagar, when gunmen on motorcycle fired five rounds at Govind. Before escaping, they pushed Uma to the ground, injuring her head severely.

“I do not know the motive behind this planned attack. He was threatened many a time, but we never approached the police or asked for protection, as he is a simple man who would fight for rights and raise issues in the interest of the common man,” said Megha on the phone from the hospital, adding that she wasn’t aware of whether he had received any threats lately.

“Since the past two days, he was unwell and had fever. He visited our family doctor and was on medication, due to which he skipped his morning walk for two days. On Sunday night, we discussed why he should not go for a walk the next morning, and even he agreed,” she recalled.

But on the fateful morning, Govind and his wife went out anyway. Megha was in the midst of some chores when she heard the neighbours screaming that someone had been shot nearby. “I was shocked when I rushed outside and saw both of them lying on the road side. With the help of my neighbours, I took them to the hospital immediately in my car,” Megha added.

Nine-hour surgery
The injured couple were taken to Aster Aadhar hospital, about 2.5 km from the crime scene. Both were unconscious and Govind was in a critical condition, having suffered heavy blood loss. His surgery went on for nearly nine hours and required over 10 bottles of blood, explained Shivanand Aparaj, the hospital chief administrator.

He was brought out of the operation theatre around 7 pm, when he was placed on ventilator support. At the time, he was stable but still in a critical condition. He added, “The initial few hours were spent just looking for the source of the internal bleeding and then the corrective surgery was performed. He had three bullet wounds, of which two had entry and exit points, while one bullet was lodged inside his body.

The bullet had pierced through his right shoulder and had settled in his abdominal cavity. Luckily, no serious damage was done. However, the most challenging part was to operate on the entry and exit wounds of the bullets near the thoracic region of the neck.”

Meanwhile, a CT scan confirmed that Uma had sustained a skull facture and needed neuro-surgical intervention. She was operated upon a little after 3.30 pm and is presently under observation in the ICU. Although she was out of danger, Uma was unable to speak to the police as she was in a state of shock.

While the police are trying to piece together exactly what happened, they are waiting for Uma to recover from shock, as she was the only eyewitness who had seen the gunmen at a close range. Although there was a CCTV camera installed nearby, it was focussed on the gates of the Sagar Education Society, and did not capture the incident as a result.

A case of attempt to murder was registered under the IPC, read with the Indian Arms Act. Preliminary investigation by the local police revealed that the gunmen had opened five rounds while three hit Pansare, two bullets missed him. “We have recovered five empty bullet shells from the spot and they seem to be from a pistol. However, only the ballistic reports will give the exact nature of weapon that was used,” said Kolhapur Additional SP Ankit Goyal.

Apart from local police, even Crime Branch teams from three districts Sangli, Solapur and Kolhapur are probing the case. In addition, Crime Branch and ATS teams from Pune and Mumbai will also join the probe. “We are going through all the earlier speeches and public gatherings addressed by Pansare for clues. The police are also probing any personal enmity, including property disputes, if any,” said a senior officer.

“We sealed the entire entry and exit points to the crime scene soon after getting information about the firing. Nakabandis were put all over the neighbouring areas, but have not led to any clues yet. We are also checking the list of criminals recently released from jail, as well as police complaints of motorcycle thefts,” said Manoj Sharma, Superintendent of Police, Kolhapur.

Apart from a team of local forensic experts from the state-run forensic laboratory in Kolhapur, special ballistics experts were called in from Pune to assist the investigators to ascertain the exact weapon that was used by the assailants. State FSL director Dr M K Malve said, “Our ballistic experts could reach only by 8 pm on Monday. They will collect the seized bullet shells and will inspect the crime scene. They will look for carbon particles from the scene, as well as clues like motorcycle tyre marks to ascertain the type of motorbike the assailants had used.”

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