Senior CPI leader Govind Pansare’s family and friends, who were hopeful of his recovery after he was airlifted from Kolhapur to Breach Candy hospital in Mumbai on Friday, received the terrible news of his death in the night.
Around 9.45pm, Pansare’s condition had started to deteriorate, as there was bleeding in his lungs, doctors at the hospital said, which resulted in his death. He was 82.
His party members were in shock upon hearing the news. Ajit Abhyankar, CPI(M) general secretary, said the government should spare no effort to arrest and punish Pansare’s killers.
Associated with the left movement since childhood, Pansare always advocated the rights of people from the lowest strata of society.
Born on November 26, 1933, in Kolhar, Ahmednagar district, Pansare was the youngest of five children. He battled extreme pover t y after his f amily l ost t heir f ar m to moneylenders.
Pansare finished his graduation from Rajaram College in Kolhapur, and then went on to study law. During his college days, Pansare participated in several movements, including the Goa freedom struggle.
“Since childhood, he was uncomfortable with the social system. After becoming a member of the CPI, fighting for the rights of small-time workers had become his life’s work,” said Abhyankar.
Despite being a part of the CPI, Pansare had spoken against some of the party’s practices, complaining that the communist movement could not go mainstream because of it.
Pansare has written 21 books, mostly a commentary on the wrongs in society. His book Shivaji Kon Hota ( Who was Shivaji?) on how fundamentalists misused the Maratha warrior’s name drew strong opposition.
Similarities with Dabholkar murder
From modus operandi to the weapon used, the attack on CPI leader Pansare and his wife Uma have an uncanny similarity with the murder of another rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, who was shot to death in August 2013 while out on a morning walk.
Pansare succumbed to the bullet injuries one-and-half years after Dabholkar’s murder. The police have yet to trace the assailants in both the cases.
Pansare and his wife were returning home from a morning walk at the Shivaji University in Kolhapur on Monday, when unidentified motorcycle-borne assailants fired five bullets at them. The CPI leader was critically injured, while his wife sustained head injuries.
Dabholkar, an anti-superstition crusader, was killed in Pune by unidentified gunmen near his house in Shaniwar Peth, when he was returning home from his morning walk. The spot picked by Pansare’s attackers, too, was close to his residence in Sagarmala locality of Kolhapur.
According to the police, the gunmen with their faces covered had shot Pansare in his neck, shoulder and leg and fled within minutes, leaving no trace behind, a method eerily similar to the Dabholkar murder.
In recent months, Pansare had led the anti-toll campaign, an issue that had triggered a violent agitation in Kolhapur, setting locals up in arms against the company responsible for collecting road tax.