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India: The struggle to punish the killers of Pansare, Kalburgi and Dabholkar is linked to the struggle to preserve democracy

10 June 2017

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The Wire - 30 may 2017

by Megha Pansare

The veteran rationalist thinker, writer and communist leader Govind Pansare was brutally assassinated in Kolhapur on February 20, 2015. More than two years have passed, but justice remains elusive. The same is true for Narendra Dabholkar and M.M. Kalburgi, whose second death anniversary is three months away. All three men were also killed by right-wing fundamentalists.

The investigations into the assassinations have been very slow and have moved only because the Dabholkar and Pansare families have petitioned the high court to monitor the investigation. The police have managed to arrest only two suspects so far and two have been absconding. All the accused are associated with the radical Hindutva organisations Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagriti Samiti, with their totally unconstitutional agenda of establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in the country.

The chargesheets filed by the police in the Dabholkar and Pansare cases clearly mention that the accused are absconding since the Margao bomb explosion case in Goa in 2009. In spite of objections on the pressure tactics used by the lawyers of the accused and the spokespersons of Sanatan Sanstha, no action has been taken against them. The state government has not yet declared the absconding suspects as wanted in the Pansare case. The investigation officer is changed at every interval and the activists’ demand to hand over the case to a dedicated team for investigation is also pending with the government.

Fundamentalism has no religion

It is really painful to define ‘justice’ in cases where people are killed because their ideology and expression of thought are not acceptable to some. Regardless of political affiliation, the government seems to be insensitive in solving these crimes and punishing the guilty. Not even a single arrest has been made in Kalburgi’s case yet.

Fundamentalism and fanaticism is not a characteristic feature of any specific religion. Farook Hameed, a young activist of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam (DVK), was killed by Muslim fundamentalists on March 17, 2017 in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. The DVK is an offshoot of the Dravidar Kazhagam founded by Periyar in the 1940s and propagates atheism and rationalism. Being an atheist in individual life is something accepted by the society, but it seems one cannot propagate atheism the way others propagate a religious faith without risking one’s life. Farook openly expressed his ideology. He had posted comments about atheism, criticising religion and caste on his Facebook page. He was the administrator of a WhatsApp group called ‘Allah Murdad,’ meaning ‘There is no God’. The result: he was killed, reports say, by his own friends. Farook’s murder is in fact a threat to all Muslim youths who embrace atheism or even rationalism.

The Coimbatore incident is, in essence, no different from those where the victims belonged to the Hindu religion and were killed by Hindu fanatics.

Shrinking freedoms

The situation in India is growing more complex by the day. The space for free expression and freedom is shrinking rapidly. The fascist forces are trying to shut voices of freedom and we are compelled to fight the battle in the available space.

The campaign of returning awards by the writers and scientists brought the anxiety of intellectuals before society. They were concerned about everything that is going against the principle of equality, freedom of expression, cultural diversity and secular values in our nation. There have been three ‘yatras’, or journeys, of writers and poets to express solidarity with the families of Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi so far. The first was a part of the Dakshinayan campaign in which 14 eminent writers from Gujarat visited Pune, Kolhapur and Dharwad, where the three rationalists were killed. Then a team of Marathi writers and activists followed the same route during their journey to Goa for a national conference in defence of freedom of expression held in November, 2016. In February 2017, 11 members of the Progressive Writers’ Association, Madhya Pradesh travelled to Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. They condemned the respective governments for failing to arrest the killers. Based on their dialogue with local people in these regions and their experiences, they will write books, plays and hold discussions to spread their thoughts across the Hindi speaking belt.

As the atmosphere of fear and intimidation grows, hundreds of writers and artists visited the historical place of Dandi, Gujarat to hold a silent protest march on January 30, 2016 to commemorate the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. A platform of collective voices of the left and Dalit movement was created in Mumbai Collective, while Delhi observed Pratirodh I and II with a clear stand to enjoy the right to dissent and free expression. The progressive forces in many towns, small and big, in the country have started organising programs like seminars, book publications and poetry recitations to protest against the attacks on women, minorities, progressive people and Dalit communities.

Criminalising rights

The atmosphere of fear exists, not only because of fundamentalist violence, but also because of the criminalisation of peaceful expression. Many have been attacked by the self-appointed nationalists and so-called religious people, while many from the minority communities, especially youth, have been arrested, held in pre-trial detention, and subjected to extensive criminal trials by the government machinery.

Fear of such repression, combined with uncertainty as to how the statutes will be applied, leads others to engage in self-censorship. State governments are using draconian laws such as the sedition provisions of the penal code, the criminal defamation law and laws dealing with hate speech to silence dissent. These laws have been repeatedly used for political purposes against critics.

There have been major attacks on free speech in the country from the government itself. The information and broadcasting ministry under the BJP government has become an image manager for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government’s advisory to news channels not to telecast the Nirbhaya documentary and serving a legal notice to the BBC for airing the Nirbhaya film India’s Daughter, issuing show cause notices to channels on Yakub Memon’s execution coverage, banning a documentary on beef – all of this tell their own story. The BJP government has crushed the resistance of the students from the Film and Television Institute of India against the appointment of a pro-BJP director and has charged JNU students with sedition. It has appointed RSS affiliated people in various academic institutes. There have been cases of deaths of journalists, intellectuals, attacks, arrests, threats, sedition, defamation and censorship of films, broadcast media, print media, music, cyber media and hate speech. The attempt to impose a one-day ban on NDTV India, the filing of a complaint against an Outlook investigation on child trafficking in Assam, the trumped up cases against human rights activists in Bastar, are all attempts to silence the media and the voices of democratic dissent. Reporters covering the courts have been assaulted by lawyers, taken into police custody and their access to the courts restricted.

The bigger picture

The time has come for thinkers, writers, poets, artists, scientists to overcome this feeling of intimidation and regenerate the society. Thinkers can become an explosive, powerful force. We have seen some examples in our freedom struggle, in Revolutionary Russia, Latin America and Africa. We have seen recently in India that the individual writers chose their timing of dissent in tandem with other fellow writers. Their act wasn’t solitary, but in solidarity with others.

At such a crucial time it will be unfortunate, if the real thinkers stop writing or speaking or expressing their views. The active thinkers can awaken society, create standards of morality, humanism and honesty and preserve them. The absence of thinkers causes civilisations to collapse. We have been observing this decay with our own eyes. The process of decaying has taken alarming speed. Make the people think aptly at individual, collective level and at the level of small groups is the first step. To create a live internal debate is the second and going to the people and thinking together, is the third.

We have seen Russel taking a stand against war, we have seen Sartre taking a stand against the US in Vietnam, and we have seen Chomsky and many others taking a stand against the aggressive foreign policy of America. Many writers opposed Franco’s dictatorship. We have seen and heard Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi doing this during many social campaigns. We have seen them expressing their views fearlessly throughout their lives. The strategy to fight the battle with right-wing forces, in Pansare’s words, is ‘shatru-mitra vivek’ (Śatru-bandhu bibēka). The regressive forces are in power not because they have support from the majority of people, but because the progressive forces are scattered and not united. The union of the left and Dalit movement can challenge the communal forces in power, he used to say.

So, if now the government at the Centre says that people should sacrifice their desire for justice and truth in the national interest, in the name of nationalism and patriotism, it should be opposed. If there are forces, which declare that India will be a Hindu Rashtra by 2023 or 2025, they should be opposed. For this is a secular nation and will remain secular. This is a democratic nation and will remain so.

Megha Pansare is an assistant professor at Shivaji University, Kolhapur, where she teaches Russian. She is the daughter of Govind Pansare.

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The Indian Express

‘Set up STF to nab accused in Dabholkar, Pansare cases’

Later, in August 2016, the SIT took Tawde’s custody, to probe his involvement in Pansare murder case

By: Express News Service | Pune | Published:May 21, 2017

In March this year, CBI had announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh in exchange for information on Akolkar and Pawar, wanted in Dabholkar murder case.

The Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS) has demanded that a special task force (STF) be constituted to arrest those accused of the murders of Dr Narendra Dabholkar and communist leader Govind Pansare.
In a press conference on Saturday, Hamid Dabholkar, son of the slain anti-superstition activist and MANS office-bearer, said an STF, comprising the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team probing the Dabholkar murder case, National Investigation Agency (NIA) team probing the Goa bomb blast case, the Maharashtra Police special investigation team (SIT) probing the Pansare murder case and the state anti-terrorism squad (ATS), should be formed to nab Sanatan Sanstha members Sarang Akolkar, Vinay Baburao Pawar and Rudra Patil.

CBI had arrested Sanatan Sanstha member Dr Virendra Tawde in the Dabholkar murder case on June 10, 2016.

Along with Tawde, CBI had named Vinay Pawar, who has been missing since 2009, and Sarang Akolkar, who is absconding in the October 2009 Goa blast case, as prime suspects.

CBI had claimed that Akolkar and Pawar had shot Dabholkar on August 20, 2013, around 7.25 pm on the Omkareshwar Bridge in Pune.

On February 16, 2015, two persons had opened fire at communist leader Govind Pansare and his wife Uma while the couple was returning home from a morning walk. While Pansare died during treatment at the hospital on February 20, his wife Uma survived.

In November, the SIT filed a chargesheet against Tawde, naming him the prime conspirator and Akolkar, Vinay Pawar and Rudra Patil as wanted accused in the case.

Later, in August 2016, the SIT took Tawde’s custody, to probe his involvement in Pansare murder case.

In March this year, the CBI had announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh in exchange for information on Akolkar and Pawar, wanted in Dabholkar murder case.

Hamid, along with MANS state secretary Milind Deshmukh, said even three and a half years after Dabholkar’s murder, the CBI and other agencies have failed to arrest Sanatan Sanstha seekers wanted in the cases.

“There has been a major delay in investigation. The state police have not even announced any reward for information about the wanted persons in Pansare murder case. Also, no steps have been taken to declare the accused persons as absconders and seize their property,” said Hamid.

Meanwhile, MANS condemned the act of sending a threat letter to journalist and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Aashish Khaitan, who had allegedly exposed how the then Pune Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol used superstitious practices like ‘planchet’ to seek a breakthrough in Dabholkar murder case.

However, an inquiry report by the Maharashtra Police gave a clean chit to Pol and his team in this case.

Hamid Dabholkar said Khetan had recently received a letter, issuing a threat to him for the arrest of Sanatan seeker Virendra Tawade.

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How long should we wait for the arrest of the suspected assassins?

(Thought and Action - April 2017 published by Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti)

Two years have passed since the brutal murder of Comrade Panasare and 42 months after killing Dr. Dabholkar. The two independent agencies involved in the investigation, viz, CBI of Central Government and SIT of State Government have lodged a criminal case on Sanatan Sanstha and Virendra Tawade of Hindu Jan Jagran Samiti. In both the charge sheets of murder, the names of Sarang Akolakar and Vinay Pawar of Sanatan Sanstha have been mentioned with supporting documents and evidences. Both the Agencies have come to this conclusion independently before lodging charge sheets in the Court. This appears to be very serious matter. In fact Sarang Akolkar, a wanted criminal by NIA, has been served with red corner notice at Interpol in the past. With these proven records, Avinash Patil of Maharashtra ANiS [Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti], through the press note, is questioning exasperatingly when will the Government arrest Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar of Sanatan Sanstha?

The press note also points out that Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar are absconded criminals of 2009 Malegao Bomb Blast Case for last seven years. In fact there was no criminal record of Vinay Pawar. Even then he has absconded since the explosion. Hence Maharashtra ANiS demands a quick action for serving a fresh red corner alert notice against these two criminals and announce an award of Rs 25 lakhs to the informers of their whereabouts. The charge sheet also mentions that there was a difference in thinking which has lead to assassinate Dr Dabholkar and Comrade Panasare. This appears to be a very severe conclusion inferred by the agencies.

The documents found by the agencies with these suspects contain false accusations on Dr Dabholkar and Comrade Pansare , some malicious writings and a list of activists and progressive thinkers of Maharashtra. Maharashtra ANiS is insisting that Government should initiate action to give protection to the persons whose names appear in the hit list. The note also states that no person will be safe until and unless Sarang Akolkar, Vinay Pawar and remaining three absconded Sadhak, viz; Pravin Limakar, Rudra Patil and Jayaprakash Hegade are put behind the bar. As such they should be arrested without much delay.

In one of the public litigation applications, the High Court has ordered the Government to state their stand on banning the activities of Sanatan Sastha Central Government has taken a stand that State Government had not provided sufficient evidence to ban these organisations. However, the State Police Department had filed a separate charge sheet against Sanatan Sanstha. Even CBI also filed a case in similar manner. The Court has already given a severe punishment to Vikram Bhave and Ramesh Gadkari, both Sadhak of Sanatan Sanstha involved in Thane and Vashi bomb blast cases. The investigating agency of State Government had found sufficient quantity of mind altering medicine in their stock during the raid on Sanatan Sanstha and found that Sanstha used to prescribe these medicines to Sadhak on regular basis. As such the press note insists that the Government should clarify their stand at the earliest.

The press note further mentions that on 16 Feb, Maharashtra ANiS and likeminded organisations in Delhi are organising picketing insisting to arrest the suspected assassins of Dr Dabholkar and Comrade Panasare. The press note further states that the branches of MAHARASHTRA ANIS are organising demonstrations all over Maharashtra insisting that the photographs of suspected assassins to be circulated through all the media.

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Interview by India writer’s forum with writer and former Police officer Keki Daruwala slow investigation into the killing of MM Kalburgi. He believes the murderer’s are not being arrested because they are connected to Sanatan Sansthan — the Hindi Far Right organisation

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Unholy Nexus: Dabholkar-Pansare-Kalburgi murders

by Megha Pansare

Sabrang India - December 2015

Bullet cartridges in the three killings suggest a common set of killers, accused Sameer Gaikwad and Rudra Patil likely to be commonly involved; Sanatan Prabhat the organ of Sanathan Sanstha has ’marked’ out Dabholkar and Pansare as ’targets’ yet the union home ministry tells Parliament that there are no connections?

Presently, the writ petitions of the Dabholkar and Pansare families pressing for fair investigation have been clubbed together by the Bombay High Court after observing the similarity in both the murders. The Sanatan Sanstha, the organization believed to be behind the killings, has even published a photograph of Dabholkar, marked over with a red cross. One Sanatan Sadhak, Malgonda Patil, who was killed while trying to execute a bomb blast in Madgaon, Goa had also written an article in Sanatan Prabhat, articulating the need to eliminate Dr. Narendra Dabholkar. This Malgonda Patil happens to be a cousin of Rudra Patil. The sketch of one of the suspected murderer in the Dabholkar murder case has a striking similarity with the sketch of Pravin Limkar, who is a prime accused in Goa bomb blast case and is on an Interpol red corner lookout notice. The accused in the Pansare murder case, namely Sameer Gaikwad is a member of Sanatan Sanstha. The members of Sanatan Sanstha have even addressed a press conference in support of Sameer Gaikwad after his arrest.

Other revealing facts have come on record in the ongoing writ petition filed by the Pansare family in the Bombay High Court:

  • that, one Rudra Patil, who is also an accused in the Goa bomb blast case and is a member of Sanatan Sanstha, has also some role in the Pansare murder case;
  • that the wife of Rudra Patil is representing Sameer Gaikwad in the court.

It has also come on record before the Judicial Magistrate, Kolhapur, dealing with Pansare murder case that Sameer Gaikwad, an accused in Pansare murder case and the absconding Rudra Patil, an accused in Goa bomb blast case are friends and have an otherwise close association and relationship.

(According to a report in The Indian Express on December 11, 2015 among the angles of investigation being pursued by the three agencies involved — CBI, Karnataka CID and Maharashtra SIT — is of the possible involvement of four missing members of the right wing Sanathan Sanstha who are accused in a 2009 blast case in Margao, Goa. The four missing persons — Jai Prakash alias Anna and Rudra Patil, both from Karnataka, and Sarang Kulkarni alias Sarang Akolkar and Praveen Limkar from Maharashtra — have been sought by multiple agencies for over six years. “We tried to find them but were not able to do so. Initial investigations showed that they escaped to Nepal. Sometime in 2014, they were reported to have returned,’’ said an NIA investigator who was a part of the investigations into the 2009 Goa blast plot in which two alleged Sanathan Sanstha men were killed while trying to plant a bomb to disrupt a celebration they were opposed to.)

Given all these facts and circumstances, the statement of the union minister of state for home, Mr. Kiren Rijiju made through a written reply to Rajya Sabha (December 3, 2015) that there is no report to suggest any linkage or connection between murders of comrade Govind Pansare, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar and professor Kalburgi is shocking.

We, the family members of Dabholkar and Pansare families, have already expressed our disagreement with his statement as it is contradicts the facts on record. We also wish to know on what basis this statement was made by the minister. Now, today, when reports of the forensic analysis of the bullet cartridges found at the scene of all three incidents suggests the probable involvement of a common set of killers, it becomes essential that the home ministry of the union government immediately issues a clarification on the previous statement made in Parliament.

There is a striking similarity in the modus operandi of these three murders. The three murders have long been suspected to be the handiwork of a right wing group opposed to the outspoken and rational views of the three victims who have consistently criticised the irrational practices and beliefs within the Hindu religious system.

When the investigating agencies in all three murder cases are closely coordinating with each other, how can it be stated that there is no connection between these three murders?  Tracing the absconding Rudra Patil has become an important task for the agencies investigating these murders. Counsel for the CBI, Rebecca Gonsalves on November 30, 2015, even made a statement in the High Court to the effect that two members of the ‘same organization’ are under scanner and their phone numbers are under surveillance.

According to the CBI submission in the Bombay High Court, on November 30, 2015, ninety- five members of ‘a right wing organisation’ were interrogated and their statements recorded. The said organisation was upset with this and therefore made allegations against the investigating Officer, by holding a press conference. The said set of documents has been filed before the Bombay High Court.

All this clearly establishes that the investigating agencies are presently examining the role of the Sanathan Sanstha in both the Dabholkar and the Pansare murder cases. The points listed above sketch the close similarity between the two cases. Hence the statement of the minister of state for home, Kiren Rijiju, in Parliament is misleading and not based on facts.

Besides the records of the investigation mentioned above, both Dabholkar and Pansare were targets of the Sanathan Sanstha, as revealed by other evidence mentioned above. As only Dabholkar and Pansare cases are being heard by the Mumbai High Court, the High Court has not made any comment on the Kalburgi case and hence this statement does not encompass that murder investigation.

We demand that an immediate clarification from the government of the previous statement is made by MOs home, Kiren Rijiju. ]