Thousands of mourners, communist party workers and activists gathered to bid an emotional farewell to eminent CPI leader Govind Pansare in Kolhapur in Western Maharashtra on Saturday.
There was a strong undercurrent of anger as mourners demanded speedy justice for Pansare, 82, who was shot at outside his home earlier this week. He died of bullet wounds on Friday night.
Thousands of workers from every social stratum gathered at Dasara Chowk to pay their last respects to their beloved ‘Anna.’
Defiant cries of “We are all Dr. Dabholkar, We are all Comrade Pansare” rent the air as they demanded an end to murderous attacks on prominent liberal intellectuals in the State.
Leaders from both sides of the spectrum were present.
Joining the CPI in 1952, Mr. Pansare transcended Communist politics by embracing a wide array of issues, fighting for the eradication of superstition and taking on the toll mafia.
“It is painful to think that the spot where Mr. Pansare was to address the annual State CPI convention would tragically transform into the place where people would pay their final respects to him,” said Marathi writer Vidya Bal.
Bemoaning the slow death of the liberal tradition in the State, Ms. Bal said that while Mr. Pansare fought for issues affecting the poor, it was Shiv Sena scion Aditya Thackeray’s proposal to extend Mumbai’s nightlife that was being enthusiastically taken up by the State government.
Swabhimani Paksha president Raju Shetti said that while Mr. Pansare had passed away, his killers would never be able to efface his ideas.
Implying the hand of rightwing forces in Mr. Pansare’s death, Mr. Shetti, whose party is an ally of the BJP, warned that the Paksha would never support a government that subscribed to the views of Nathuram Godse.
Ordinary workers stressed Mr. Pansare’s tireless efforts to educate them, recalling how his most famous pamphlet, Shivaji kon hota? (Who was Shivaji?), did much to recast King Shivaji as a social reformer, as opposed to an exalted, feudalistic image paraded by chauvinistic, right-wing regionalist parties.
“His equanimity was remarkable. When his son Avinash passed away, Comrade Pansare rhetorically asked, standing beside the body: ‘Who will complete his unfinished task?’ — ‘We will’, he himself answered,” recalled a CPI activist.