The government stated that there is no report to suggest any link between the murders of rationalists Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar from Maharashtra and MM Kalburgi from Karnataka. Pansare, a left-wing politician and author, was shot on February 16 this year, by assailants in Kolhapur. He succumbed to his injuries five days later and died in Mumbai’s hospital. Dabholkar, a rationalist and author, was killed on August 20, 2013, in Pune. Kannada writer M.M. Kalburgi was shot dead on August 30 this year in Dharwad district of Karnataka.
Veteran Left leader Govind Pansare and his wife were shot at near their home. The 82-year-old lawyer by profession, a known anti-toll tax campaigner, was on a morning walk with his wife Uma when at around 8 am, unknown attackers fired at them. The shooters reportedly fired at least four rounds from a close range before running away. He was the one who, appealed to workers of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) to remain aggressive in continuing the work of anti-superstition crusader Narendra Dabholkar. Pansare further had forced the state government to pass the Anti-Superstition Bill in the assembly and implement it.
Pansare, a communist leader, has fought for years against the state government’s decision to charge citizens for road development. Tolls are indirect taxation. This mode is adopted when the direct taxation is not comprehensive and many people are outside the direct tax net. What can be done is that if one has paid a certain amount as direct taxes, the tolls can be exempted for that person. However, this will require a lot of technology to be put in place to track ones direct taxes paid every year and issue him a card that can be swiped at toll plazas to exempt him from the toll. Pansare was building pressure on government against these toll mafias. Pansare before his assassination had resorted to protest against the Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis’s U-turn on scrapping the levy. A panel of anti-toll activists from Ravivar Peth in Kolhapur had made CM’s personal mobile phone number public, urging sympathisers to flood him with text messages demanding a rollback of the levy. The anti-toll activists displayed hoardings with these numbers in prominent localities, setting a target of sending over one lakh anti-toll text messages to the CM. Fadnavis’s woes were further compounded with a prominent Marathi daily published his numbers along with a story regarding the unique anti-toll protest. Not amused by the mode of protest, sources said the CM’s office registered its displeasure to the toll activists and the publication house also.
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had also faced a similar protest following his decision to continue with the local body tax. Activists from Kolhapur were also involved then. However, the mobile number shared then was that of a senior official in the CMO and not Chavan’s. Anyway, there was nothing much done against the abolition of anti-toll tax and toll mafias but the revolutionary was assassinated, within a span of few months of BJP’s government came in power in the state.
In a similar manner, Dabholkar, an anti-superstition activist, was shot dead in August, 2013, while he was on a morning walk near his house in Pune. The Maharashtra government had announced a reward of Rs. 10 lakh for information on his killers. Dabholkar, was at the forefront of a campaign to persuade Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill. Dabholkar’s murder comes days after the Maharashtra government assured introduction of the Anti-Superstition Bill even as Right Wing groups continued to oppose the bill. A staunch fighter for the cause of eradication of inhuman rituals and superstitions, Dr. Dabholkar, who had a degree in medicine, started working in the field of eradication of superstition in 1983. In 1989, along with other like-minded people, he founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti.
In 2010, RTI activist Satish Shetty was also killed while he was out on his morning stroll was allegedly stabbed by several people. Popularly known as “Satish”, was an Indian social activist, noted for exposing many land scams in Maharashtra. He had used the Right to Information Act to expose irregularities in Government offices in the last five years. He was killed on 13 January 2010, by unknown attackers in Talegaon. Shetty had used the RTI Act to expose large scale land scams involving the leading real estate firm IRB Infrastructure and its subsidiary Aryan. In 2009, he filed a complaint that forged documents had been used by these firms to acquire large swathes of land in the Taje and Pimploli villages off the Pune-Mumbai highway. After investigations, 90 sale deeds were cancelled. After this episode, Shetty started getting threat calls. In November 2009, he filed a request with the Pune rural police seeking protection. In the request, he said that he had been receiving threats. In January 2010, Shetty was stabbed by several people while he was at a kiosk reading a paper after his morning walk. The attack on Pansare is the third in this pattern and I am sure this would also be open and shut case like other two.
Toll Mafia are powerful than Maharashtra Government, Judiciary and law enforcement agencies. All the toll-ways (high ways) are not maintained at all. We are suffering jerk during the journeys. Toll is highly unpopular and anti-people. Only the contractors are benefited with it. It is the biggest example of Politician-Official-Contractor nexus. Many political leaders across political parties have indirect business interest in Road Construction and Infrastructure through Sub-contracts with Toll Mafia. Only Raj Thackeray and his party MNS dare to taught lesson to them but they also tamed down after the state election results. Here, who will bell the cat is the problem? I trust the government if they say there is no connection between these murders. However, if they know this then they should expose the people behind these murders and the motive behind the murders?