Communist leader G. Pansare dead, lakhs bid tearful adieu



Rationalist Govind Pansare, a senior CPI leader and leading light of the anti-toll tax movement, who was shot at in Kolhapur Feb 16, died in Mumbai. He was 82.

The Communist Party of India leader was airlifted to Mumbai's Breach Candy Hospital Friday evening for further treatment, but succumbed barely a couple of hours later around 11.30 p.m.

Sir J.J. Group of Hospitals dean T.P. Lahane, who was monitoring Pansare's condition, said excessive bleeding in the lungs resulted in his death.

Pansare's body was airlifted to his home town where lakhs of people paid their last respects even as Kolhapur observed a spontaneous shutdown to protest his killing.

Condemning the killing, Governor C.V. Rao said the assassination of a selfless social worker like Pansare was a dastardly act.

"I have no doubt in my mind that the state government will take every step to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice," Rao said.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, several of his cabinet colleagues, top leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party, Shiv Sena, Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, CPI, Republican Party of India and others visited the hospital Saturday morning and paid homage to Pansare.

Opposition parties in the state have called for a 'Maharashtra shutdown' Sunday to protest Pansare's killing and demanded the immediate arrest of the culprits.

Besides the CPI and other Left parties, Congress, NCP, RPI, Bharatiya Republican Party-Bahujan Mahasangh (BRPBM) led by Prakash Ambedkar, a three-time MP and grandson of B.R. Ambedkar, and other parties have declared support to the shutdown.

"Maharashtra has lost a progressive leader. The state will always remember his contribution for justice to the poor and depressed classes. He left a permanent mark on the state's social-political landscape. All efforts shall be made to nab the culprits soon," Fadnavis said.

State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre demanded a CBI probe into the killing, while Ambedkar sought a Special Investigation Team to probe the case instead of the local police.

Pansare and his wife Uma were shot at while they were returning from a morning walk in their hometown.

At least two motorcycle-riding assailants accosted them, shouted Pansare's name and shot at the couple from close range before speeding off from the crime scene.

Uma Pansare, who sustained serious injuries, is undergoing treatment in a Kolhapur hospital, where her condition was described as stable.

The modus operandi of the attack was described by police as similar to the shooting of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar 18 months ago in Pune.

Kolhapur Saturday resembled a sea of red, with lakhs of people carrying red flags, wearing red shirts or T-shirts and red caps to mourn Pansare's death and waited hours in snaking queues for a last glimpse.

Later, his flower-bedecked body was taken in a truck to the Panchganga crematorium where his two daughters lit the funeral pyre without any religious rites as cries of "Pansare Amar Rahe", "Comrade Govind Pansare, Lal Salam, Lal Salam" rent the air.

Renowned for his advocacy for the rights of people and workers from the lowest strata of society, Pansare was born Nov 26, 1933 in Kolhar village in Ahmednagar district.

"His family had lost its farm to local moneylenders and since childhood, Pansare fought against the existing social system, and later joined the CPI and continued his fight on a larger canvas," CPI-M leader Ajit Abhyankar told media persons.

The youngest of five children, Pansare moved to the erstwhile princely state of Kolhapur for higher studies at Rajaram College and later acquired a law degree.

Around the same time, he also plunged into the Indian freedom movement and took part in several agitations, including the struggle to liberate Goa.

He did not shy away from criticising certain policies and practices of the CPI due to which, he argued, the Communist movement failed as a mass movement in the country.

A few weeks ago, Pansare had faced protests at Shivaji University where he criticised the glorification of Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse by certain groups.

He also made certain references to 2008 Mumbai terror attacks martyr Hemant Karkare, the former Anti Terrorism Squad chief who was shot dead by Pakistani terrorists.

Close friends and party activists claimed he had allegedly received threats for his bold utterances, but did not take them too seriously.

During his lifetime, Pansare wrote 21 novels, most of them stark commentaries on the ills and wrong practices in Indian society.

Police in Kolhapur have formed 10 special teams to nab the killers, but so far there has been no breakthrough in the case. - IANS