Saturday, February 21, 2015

From a newspaper vendor to a leader of the poor: Remembering CPI stalwart Govind Pansare

Mumbai: Veteran communist leader and rationalist Govind Pansare, who succumbed to bullet injuries late on Friday, was known for his advocacy for workers' rights  and for his book 'Shivaji Kon Hota?' (Who was Shivaji?).

Days after being shot at, Pansare dies in Mumbai where he was flown for treatment
Pansare was born on November 26, 1933, at Kolhar village in the Srirampur taluka in Ahmednagar district into a farmers’ family, who lost their farmland to moneylenders. While his mother worked as a farm hand and his father did small jobs, the family lived in poverty. Patil was attracted to social movements since childhood and also headed the socialist Rashtra Seva Dal shakha in his village.
During his school days, Pansare came in contact with communists and has also campaigned for the then CPI leader PB Patil in assembly elections. After completing his primary education in his village and secondary education at Rahuri in Ahmednagar, he moved to Kolhapur for graduation and law.
He also worked as a newspaper vendor, a peon in the municipality, primary teacher and then served as associate professor in the Shivaji University for ten years. While he started practising labour law since 1964, he participated in the Samyukta Maharashtra and Goa freedom fights. He was arrested during the 1962 India-China war as a part of the crackdown against Communists who were seen as pro-China. He was the state secretary of CPI for ten years and a member of its national executive.
Pansare was associated with various social movements that involve the unorganized sector such as farm labourers, domestic help, auto-rickshaw unions, milk producers, hawkers, slums and others. Recently, he was leading an anti-toll agitation in Kolhapur. He also criticised certain policies of the CPI due to which the Communist movement failed to become popular among the masses in the country.
He was also a known critic of right-wing forces and had written many books on  the ills  in Indian society. While he authored many books on reservations, Marxism, Muslims, article 370, Rajarshi Shahu, labour laws and policies, globalization and agriculture, his book ‘Who Was Shivaji’ was one of his well-received books in which he portrayed Shivaji as a secular who respects all religions as against the portrayal by right wing outfits.
“Those who are using Shivaji in order to obtain people’s consent will have to answer for this historical truth. If there are any buyers for their hatred for Islam they should sell it on their own merit. They should not sell their commodity in Shivaji’s name. They should not sell that commodity under the brand of Shivaji. At the same time, the Muslims should not equate Shivaji with his image created by these so-called Shivabhaktas. They should look at history; they should appreciate his attitude to Islam religion. Then only they should make their opinion,” Pansare wrote in his book ‘Who Was Shivaji’.
The book has been translated into many languages including Kannada, Urdu, Gujarati, English and Hindi languages and over 1 lakh copies of it have been sold.
His associates say Pansare had launched an aggressive campaign to expose the Modi government ever since it came to power in May last year.  "He also launched the campaign against the BJP’s strategy of using Gandhi's name and, at the same time, glorification of Nathuram Godse for Gandhi's killing by Hindu outfits. He was trying to expose the real face of RSS and other Hindu outfits," said Namdev Gawade, his associate.
Recently, Pansare had faced protests at Shivaji University where he criticized the glorification of Nathuram Godse by certain groups. His friends and party activists say he had reportedly received threats for criticizing the right-wings but he ignored them.
Pansare was a close associate of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, was also shot dead while he was out for a morning walk near the Omkareshwar bridge in Pune in August 2013. Pansare was also attacked in a similar fashion. Following the death Dabholkar, Pansare had stepped up pressure on the government for the passage of the Anti-Superstition Bill.