Assassination of Govind Pansare

Govind Pansare

On 16th February 2015, around 9:30 am in the morning, he was taking his morning walk with his wife. Two men came out of nowhere and shot the two. They were moved to the hospital. He seemed to be recovering and was moved to Mumbai for treatment from Kolhapur, his native place. But, it was all in vain and he took his last breath on 20th of February leaving behind a legacy of political activism and and many questions regarding the motive behind his assassination.

From Goa independence movement of the 50’s, United Maharashtra movement to the latest anti-toll movement and at times even critical of his parent organization- the Stalinist CPI, Com. Govind Pansare (82) has played a significant role in the leftist politics of Maharashra particularly.

One of his major contributions to Indian history is his analysis of King Shivaji (1627 – 1680) through his famous booklet ‘Who was Shivaji?’ in which he outrightly denies the popular notion propagated by the right wing that Shivaji was against Muslims. On the contrary, there were many Muslims in his empire working with him and some of them were in high ranking posts which show that he was no anti-Muslim. In one of his speeches, Pansare said that he felt fulfilled to have done his work for life by writing this booklet which has been translated in many different languages across India and of which more than 1,40,000 copies have been sold till date. He has also written booklets on caste, condition of Muslims in India, droughts in Maharashtra, anti-labor laws etc.

In Maharashtra, several activists have been threatened or killed in last few years. Satish Shetty, an RTI activist from Pune was killed 5 years ago. One and half years ago, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar (rationalist) was killed in the same way as Govind Pansare. While his killers also remain at large, his death sparked the passing of the anti-superstition bill in the Maharashrea legislative assembly. Many activists from Dalit/ Ambedakarite movement such as Kabir Kala Manch have also been repressed accusing them of being affiliated to Naxalite/ Maoist movement.

While it is surely a big shock to many in the progressive, left and Dalit movements in Maharashtra and shows the utter impunity that Hindutva forces have begun to display lately, and weakness of the left forces in general to take on them. However, this cold blooded murder has sparked off a large number of protests in Maharashtra, but reaction still remains largely emotional and the left is not effectively using this as springboard to reinvigorate of what was once a powerful force in Maharashtra.

Protest against Govind Pansare's  murder
Our comrades in Pune protesting against Govind Pansare’s murder

Despite the obvious limitations of CPI politics in general, Com. Govind Pansare’s perseverance about his work, ability to work on different agendas at the same time, his understanding and work against cultural hegemony are definitely worth remembering and needs to be analyzed critically.

Com. Govind Pansare, Red Salute!

Venkatesh Harale