A day after two motorcycle-borne attackers opened fire at Govind Pandharinath Pansare, popular as Anna (84), and his wife Uma (70) near their Ideal Housing Society residence at Sagarmal in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra, Kolhapur police said 20 teams have been formed to nab the attackers.
The couple is admitted to hospital. People protesting against the attack on the Left leader, meanwhile, raised slogans against some saffron groups (Hindutva groups) including RSS, eliciting strong rebuttals. Some of the saffron groups said there could have been differences in views with Pansare, but allegations of Pansare supporters that a right wing hand was behind the attack were baseless.
Pansare supporters protesting against the attack directed slogans at RSS and similar outfits. Pansare, who received three bullet injuries in the attack, is known for his strong stand against saffron groups.
Some drew a comparison with the Dabholkar murder, alleging Pansare may have been targeted for “progressive views”.
Police are investigating all angles. Police said some teams have been specifically tasked with the job of looking into political and social views of the veteran communist leader and his writings, for clues on any threat perceptions because of his stands.
An officer from Kolhapur police said that of the 20 teams formed, some are looking into Pansare’s socio-political views and writings. “His stand against caste discrimination and his views on politics over King Shivaji had been opposed by some right wing groups,” said the officer.
A saffron group said baseless allegations were being made against them.
Raghunath Kamble, general secretary of Kolhapur unit of the CPI said Pansare had a rift with Sanatan Sanstha — a saffron outfit —that had filed a defamation suit against Pansare. “In 2009 in Goa, Pansare’s speech against Sanatan Sanstha was reported in a Marathi daily. Sanatan Sanstha filed a defamation suit of Rs 10 crore against Pansare in Madgaon court,” added a CPI activist from Goa.
Sanatan Sanstha spokesperson Sandeep Shinde told The Indian Express, “We did file a defamation suit against Pansare in 2009. We complained to the Press Council of India. We have differences and pursued legal ways to deal with it. We have nothing to do with the attack.”
Kamble alleged that Pansare received anonymous threat letters saying “Tumcha Dabholkar Karu”, which means he would also be killed like Dr Narendra Dabholkar, an anti-superstition activist. But he just tore up the threat letters.
“It should be probed whether there is any link between the attack on Pansare and Dr Dabholkar, both well-known faces of progressive movements in Maharashtra. Both attacks came during their morning walks,” Kamble said.
An activist said that in mid-January, Pansare had given a speech in Shivaji University in Kolhapur, in which he said Nathuram Godse, who shot Mahatma Gandhi, was a member of the RSS. A youth reportedly associated with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had told Pansare that he was distorting history and argued that Godse was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha and not the RSS.
Vivekanand Ujalambkar, secretary, ABVP of Maharashtra issued a statement to strongly condemn the attack on Pansare. “We believe fights over thoughts should be fought with thoughts. We hope police arrest those who attacked Pansare and his wife,” he said.
Retired Justice B G Kolse Patil said, “Pansare never bothered about threats. In the last week of December 2014, he received threats for organising a programme in Kolhapur about a book ‘Who killed Karkare?’ written by retired cop S M Mushrif… In the book, Mushrif makes insinuations about the alleged hand of some Indian agencies behind the killing of former ATS chief Hemant Karkare during the 26/11 attack.
He based his arguments on arrest of Hindu suspects in the Malegaon blast case of 2008.
Bhagatramji Chhabada, Bal Maharaj and some other leaders of the RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad from Kolhapur addressed a press conference in Ichalkaranji on Tuesday. “Let cops arrest the attackers of Pansare. We condemn such violence. But it is wrong to make statements against nationalist Hindu groups for the attack. Let police arrest the real attackers,” they said.
Pansare a proponent of secular thought in Maharashtra is known for his views against social discrimination, superstition, caste politics and religious fundamentalism. His books deal with issues related to progress of Muslims and the Sachar Committee report, caste politics and Mandal Commission report. He has written 21 books.
Two books about Maratha King Shivaji, Shivjanma: Kuchalaki Brigade and Sambhaji Brigade’ and Shivaji Kon Hota? (Who was Shivaji?) talk about politics indulged in by various parties and extremist groups in the name of Shivaji. He argues that facts about historical figures are distorted and used for political benefit. Shivaji Kon Hota? has been translated into several Indian languages and English. Over one lakh copies have been sold.
Pansare, who practised law in Kolhapur for four decades, has written books about freedom of speech and newspapers and labour laws.