Mumbai: Veteran CPI leader Govind Pansare and his wife Uma were attacked on Monday morning after two unknown assailants fired at them in front of their house in Kolhapur district of western Maharashtra.
The incident took place around 8 am outside Ideal Housing Society, when the two were returning home after their daily morning walk from Shivaji University in Kolhapur. The police said that while Pansare was hit by bullets on the nape of his neck and one brushed his hand, while his wife Uma suffered a single bullet injury.

The couple is currently admitted to Aster-Aadhar hospital and has been operated upon successfully.

Pansare, a highly respected political figure in Maharashtra, is a well known name in the communist movement and is also a known critic of right-wing forces.

In 1984, he wrote a popular book called Shivaji Kon Hota(Who was Shivaji) on Chatrapati Shivaji in which he projected Shivaji as the people’s king as against the portrayal of Shivaji as a Hindu king by Hindu communal outfits. The book has been translated into many languages including Kannada, Urdu, Gujarati, English and Hindi languages.

“In this book, he showed how the actual history of Shivaji and how it is being used by the communal outfits. He is an outspoken person and has been speaking against the RSS and other Hindu outfits since beginning. It had then angered the saffron outfits,” said Namdev Gawade, a state executive member of Maharashtra unit of CPI, speaking to Firstpost.

Gawade further added that since Modi government came to power in May last year, he has launched an aggressive campaign to expose them.

“Pansare was saying that ‘RSS has hundred mouths and speaks different languages’. He also launched the campaign against the BJP’s strategy of using Gandhi name and, at the same time, glorification of Nathuram Godse for Gandhi’s killing by Hindu outfits. He was trying to expose the real face of RSS and other Hindu outfits,” Gawade said.

He said that Pansare was close associate of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. “He, along with Dabholkar, first launched the campaign against immersion of idols in Kolhapur, which did not go down well with Hindu outfits,” he said, adding that Pansare has been receiving threats continuously but had ignored them so far.

Pansare has been associated with various social movements that mainly include the unorganized sector such as farm labourers, domestic help, auto-rickshaw unions, milk producers, slums and others. Recently, he was leading an anti-toll agitation in Kolhapur.

Observers from Kolhapur said that some of the saffron outfits have been disrupting his programs for over past six months on various issues.

The incident has shaken the socio-political circle in Maharashtra and has brought back the memories of the murder of anti-superstition activist and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. Dabholkar was also shot dead while he was out for a morning walk near the Omkareshwar bridge in Pune in August 2013. Pansare was also aatacked in a similar fashion. Following the death Dabholkar, Pansare had stepped up pressure on the government for the passage of the Anti-Superstition Bill.

In past three years, the attacks on the social activists and intellectuals in Maharashtra has been on the rise. Apart from Dabholkar, RTI activists Satish Shetty was also murdered in Pune for exposing land grab. While the murderers of Dabholkar are still absconding, there is no progress in CBI investigation in Shetty’s case.

Leaders and activists have expressed their outrage over the attacks and have raised doubts whether it has any links with the killing of anti-superstition activist Dabholkar.

“It should be probed whether there is any common link with the attack on comrade Govind Pansare and Dabholkar’s murder. Police should probe the speeches given by Pansare in the recent times and other related aspects,” said social activist Medha Patkar.

Following the attack, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed ‘shock’ and strongly condemned the attack on Pansare and his wife.

“I have spoken to police authorities and directed them to speed up the investigation and arrest the assailants. Ten special teams have been formed for the investigation and director general of police will supervise the investigation,” Fadnavis said.