Attack on Pansare: No place for free thought in Maharashtra?

As protests pick up across the state, all eyes are on the new government to see if the police force under the new regime will be able to ensure action against the attackers.

 |  3-minute read |   16-02-2015
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For those who have seen Govind Pansare's journey as a social activist, the similarities between the attack on Dr Narendra Dabholkar and now, Pansare, are a little too many. Both are noted social activists who have believed in secular thoughts and were proponents of the anti superstition movement. Both have dedicated their lives to fighting against injustice in society. Both were in the firing line of certain sections of society who resented their views on secularism and social justice. And both were attacked in a similar fashion by attackers shooting out at them in the early hours of the morning. And both had been receiving threats from people who opposed their views. In both these cases, the attempt was to silence the ideology they stood for.

Around a fortnight ago, it is said, Govind Pansare, got a threat letter from an unidentified person. The sender was someone who didn't agree with the senior activist's views. But that was a regular feature for the social activist who fought for justice for the underprivileged and marginalised and espoused secular values all his life. The danger that these random letters posed was seen only this morning when Pansare, 82 and his wife Uma were shot at by assailants on a bike. The couple was out for a morning walk when the attackers shot bullets at them. While Pansare took three bullets and is currently undergoing surgeries in a Kolhapur hospital, Mrs Pansare is reported to be out of danger.

Pansare's frank views on historical facts and social norms were revolutionary and irked many who didn't approve of his anti superstition and secular ideology. As the organiser of a talk on "Who Killed Karkare", Pansare had ruffled feathers. Similarly, it is believed that during a discussion, Pansare had spoken about how Mahatma Phule and his aides who had created a sense of fear among people in the name of religion. The Kolhapur-based social activist had also authored a book, Shivaji Kon Hota, and often criticised the way certain political groups had exploited and abused Shivaji for their own gains. In January, this year, at a conference at Kolhapur's Shivaji University on whether caste-based reservation amounts to discrimination, it is believed that Pansare got into a heated debate with a person.

The attack on Pansare saw widespread protests across Maharashtra with people pouring into the streets to demand immediate action against the assailants. Black flag protests in Aurangabad, rural parts of Solapur and Nashik and even Mumbai show the mass following Pansare enjoyed among the weaker sections of society. The chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, announced the formation of ten police teams to probe the matter but the assurance held little value for the people of Maharashtra who have seen Dabholkar's killers going scot free. Pansare's supporters and colleagues believe that criminals have been emboldened by the police's inability to nab the accused in the Dabholkar case. It's been 18 months since Dabholkar was shot dead in the middle of Pune and the killers have not been brought to book as yet. As protests pick up across the state, all eyes are on the new government to see if the police force under the new regime will be able to ensure action against the attackers.


Aditi Pai Aditi Pai @aditi12p

The writer is journalist with India Today.

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