Reacting strongly to the attack on comrade Govind Pansare in Kolhapur on Monday, Communist Party of India(Marxist), Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Sanghatana (or ANIS, an anti-superstition organisation), Dalit movement activists, and Bahujan Samaj party leaders came out on the streets to denounce the “cowardly act of violence”.
A meeting was held at Hutatma Smarak in the city, and the violent attack on Pansare was denounced strongly. Many leaders made speeches calling it an attempt to suppress the progressive voice by non-secular forces. The speakers demanded the immediate arrest of culprits and also reminded the government that if the culprits of Dr Dabholkar murder had been caught in time, such tendencies would not have become strong.
The protesting group then took out a march in the city. They held a rasta roko at Meher signal point and held traffic up for a while.
While some leaders shouted slogans, some activists lay down on the road holding placards. Many made a human chain to stop the traffic while some others sat on the road, all demanding strict and immediate action from the government.
Some reactions from the mass protest:
Raju Desle, leader (CPM)- The attack on comrade Pansare and his wife, who is a veteran leader of communist, Dalit, working-class people and also a freedom fighter, is an act of cowardice. It comes when the culprits of Dr Dabholkar’s murder are roaming free. The government should take steps to curb such intolerant tendencies and Maharashtra needs to think in which direction our society is moving. People working for progressive change are angered by this attack, which follows a similar attack on Dr Dabholkar. We demand that the government arrest the wrongdoers.
Krishna Changude, activist (ANIS)– This attack took place because the culprits of the Dr Dabholkar murder are roaming free. Had they been caught, such non-secular tendencies would not have been strengthened. When Dr Dabholkar was murdered, we had denounced the act saying ‘Amhi sare Dabholkar’ – “We all are Dabholkar’ and Pansare was one person who had denounced that attack. He also has been supporting the work against superstition apart from his work for the downtrodden and the communist party. He had very clearly and in secular manner written his thoughts in ‘ Shivaji Konacha’ and was now describing Shahu Maharaj and his work in his perspective. This attack depicts intolerance to ideas, views and perspectives in a free, secular state. We believe that the disagreement of thoughts has to be resolved by thought and not by violence. Such tendencies that take the violent route need to be curbed. If our leaders, who are the sources of energy for us, are attacked in this manner, we the common activists could be the next target. Then should we not work for a progressive Maharashtra?
Chhaya Deo, activist, forum against commercialization of education (FACE) – The attack on Comrade Pansare is very hurtful. The boldness and rampant behaviour of such violent tendencies needs to be stopped. It is for the common man to stand against such behaviour. We should force the government to take steps in curbing this wrongdoing. It is time the common man takes a political stand and says that his patience should not be tested any more. We wish comrade Pansare and his wife a speedy recovery and a long life.
Megha Pansare –Daughter of Govind and Uma Pansare
The violent attack on my parents is shocking. They have been working for people in all earnest. The attack comes when the culprits of Dr Dabholkar’s murder are still not arrested. Such non-secular and wrong tendencies need to be curbed. I hope that the government takes strict action against those who have attacked comrade Govind and Usha Pansare.
Following the attack on veteran Communist leader Govind Pansare (78) and his wife Uma near their residence in Kolhapur, there were two protests staged by various groups in the city.
While one protest was held outside Dadar station, the other was held at Azad Maidan.
“Pansare was planning on taking lectures on Shivaji. I met Pansare earlier this month on February 7. He discussed the plan and said he was going to take 100 lectures in three to four districts in Kolhapur, He claimed he would expose the alleged misuse of Shivaji by political parties for their narrow gains,” claimed Advait Pednekar, a member of Lok Vigyan Sangathna, who was part of the protest in Dadar.
The protests were attended by literary groups, performing artists and various activists from across Mumbai. Few, who claimed to be supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party, also turned up to condemn the attacks.
The protests witnessed strong opinions against the attack on Pansare with many in the crowd directly accusing factions of the RSS and other Hindutva-related parties for it.
Vishwas Utagi, secretariat member of CPI, Mumbai, had sent out messages at 11 am, just two hours after Pansare and his wife were attacked. “We called for a protest at 2 pm and at such a short notice, hundreds of people turned up,” Utagi said.
Those who attended the protest-demonstration at Azad Maidan against the attack were members of the CPI, CPI(M), Peasants and Workers Party of India (PWP) and several bank insurance employees. “We will apply pressure on the police to solve this case at the quickest,” Utagi said.
The police locked the gates at Azad Maidan initially fearing the crowd would spill on to the streets and disturb the traffic.
“We had decided to take a rally to the Maharashtra police headquarters in Colaba, but were stopped by the police. At least 50 persons were detained by the police as they stopped vehicles near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus,” said one of the protesters.
Pune activists protest against attack on CPI leader Govind Pansare
With this incident coming to light, following the assassination of Dr Narendra Dabholkar and RTI activist Satish Shetty, the agitated crowd hit out at right-wing political parties, blaming them of trying to stifle the voice of social activists. “After Narendra Dabholkar, it was Pansare who had a broad perspective about religion. An attack on him is an attack on the right to freedom and right to speech,” said Subhash Ware of Aam Admi Party. Bearing an uncanny similarity to the murder of Dabholkar, who was shot near Omkareshwar Bridge, on the morning of August 20, 2013, Pansare and his wife were shot by two unidentified assailants on a bike, when they were out for a morning walk. “Right to independent speech does not exist in the country anymore. Pansare brought a new meaning to the image of Shivaji to all of us and with his book, ‘Shivaji Kaun Hota’, he spread it to every household. This attack will not curb the communist movements and we will not stop. We want the government to take necessary steps to find the culprits and punish them so that another Dabholkar or Pansare is not attacked,” said Ramesh Awasthi, leader of Maharashtra Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL).
Anwar Rajan, a Pune based social activist, went on to claim that fascism started with Gandhi’s assassination and even after 67 years of democracy, it continues with the attacks on campaigners like Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. He said, “What really matters is the fact that it is just not a person who was attacked, but his progressive thoughts as well. The right to think independently and express was attacked this morning.” Among the demonstrators was 90-year-old Shantabai Ranade, a freedom-fighter who had worked closely with Pansare in the past. “This is not why we fought for freedom. We did not fight for freedom to see a day when, the voices of our own people will stifled,” said Ranade. Collector of Pune district, Saurabh Rao, assured the agitators that the government would ensure speedy investigation into the incident, to nab the assailants. The protestors will assemble once again on the occasion of Shivaji Jayanti on February 19, to rally against the intolerance of political parties which try to suppress the voices of social activists.