“He was our pillar of strength”
Translated by Ipsita Gauri and Anjaleena
July 4, 2018
This is the first excerpt from a long essay by Megha Pansare on Comrade Govind Pansare, originally published in Marathi in Mukta Shabda. The entire essay will be published in a series of excerpts. Watch this space for more.
Mukta Dabholkar and I left Bhupesh Gupta Hall Mumbai, after attending the meeting organised by members of the Comrade Govind Pansare Memorial Committee to protest against Dr Kalburgi’s murder. We were to spend the night at Mukta’s place. Some young members of ANIS (Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti) were accompanying us for a ride on the way. Drizzling rains and long wet roads with a long line of cars moving at a snail’s pace in the long winding traffic. The conversation flowed around the challenges of blind religious beliefs faced by ANIS and the strategies they will need to employ to combat them in the near future. Mukta was sharing her views and thoughts with them. Sometimes, when they posed a question to me, I shared my experiences.
We were to fly to Bangalore early next morning. There, we had an appointment with the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri Siddaramaiah, regarding the investigation into the murder of Dr Kalburgi. Shrivijay, Dr Kalburgi’s son, was to accompany us. There, some Kannada writers had also organised an open discussion and an interaction with the media. I had a very unclear picture of all these meetings and ambivalent feelings about the objectives they would meet. But, somewhere in my heart, I knew that these engagements were crucial.
We dropped off the last of the members accompanying us. Only two of us were left, Mukta and I. Some silence, a quiet moment. “Doesn’t it feel like we are living through a long terrifying nightmare?” Mukta asked. She was right — an unending nightmare!
16 February, 2015.
I had gone on my usual walk across Shivaji University. In the days before his death, Comrade and I would return together from our walks. On our way back, we would have interesting discussions on various topics. Sometimes, we would also meet his friends and colleagues like Prof J F Patil, Prof Sharad Navare, Prof Uday Narkar, students, and other party members. He would share his thoughts with them, ideas and strategies that he had been thinking of; or, he would delegate some work that needed to be done urgently. Long discussions would follow, one leading to another. We always got inevitably late while returning. The thought of my children, the cooking that needed to be done, and all the pending work at the university department would make me prod him to hurry home.
I remember, just a few days before this incident took place, we met Prof Sharad Navare on our way back. He shared his regret about how the Left Movement had neglected, in its endeavours, to explore the cultural platform. How, even today, we sing the same old songs of the movement, nothing new is created or written. He spoke passionately about how we need to connect to the present social milieu and effectively spread our progressive and contemporary thoughts through various mediums like poems, literature, songs, theatre, films, documentaries, etc.
In fact, a year before, we had had resumed IPTA’s work in Kolhapur. Along with Manjul Bharadwaj, we had arranged and conducted theatre workshops on “Theatre of Relevance”. Comrade had been truly happy that we were able to stage 20 shows of “Chedchad Ka?” (Why Eve teasing?). We were hoping to create a workshop on revolutionary music for IPTA in collaboration with Shahir Sadashiv Nikam and Sheetal Sathe.
On that day, due to weakness, Comrade did not accompany me on our usual morning walk. Instead, he went for a stroll just outside the house with his wife Uma; the attackers shot him on his way back. He was rushed to the hospital Aster Adhaar. Initially, it seemed like the light of his life would wane. But slowly, his health seemed to have stabilised; it gave rise to our belief “He will surely recover.” But, four days later, this belief suffered a severe and painful blow when the candle of his life went out. Since then, this world started to feel different. Primarily, this incident was a direct creation of ideological opponents, a calculated and pre-planned attack. It was an act of cold blooded violence.
In 1992, right after the Babri Masjid was demolished, I had felt similar sense of numbness, a deep sense of foreboding. I had felt weighed down by the fear of what was to follow this violence. My fears materialised when the demolition was followed by inhuman riots and violence. At the time, to overcome the deep rooted impact of the situation, we had focused on performing various street plays addressing the effects of the incident. In the the years since then, the violence has reached our very doorstep; this reality is only just hitting me.
Comrade was our main pillar of strength. His death has left a huge, irreplaceable vacuum in the hearts of the family and the society. Days go by. Eight months have passed. In the initial phase, we were in a state of shock; we felt an intense and tremendous emotional loss. This grief lasted for a long period. But with time came loneliness. Because of the burden of responsibilities that I had to shoulder, the pain that Comrade’s memories always brought got buried somewhere deep down. Maybe this is one of the ways our survival instinct works. This is how we protect ourselves from painful memories. After such incidents, it becomes imperative to face the present with stoicism and deal with situations as they come.
After Comrade’s demise, trying to face new questions, new problems, with patience and sensitivity became quite a challenge. Till Comrade was there, I never had to face or deal with the day to day issues of individual conflicts and dislike; the jealousy and animosity that arose out of professional aspirations. With him around, I could focus peacefully on my family and my academic pursuits. He had been a stalwart; an invisible yet a firm and protective wall, standing between us and the outside world. Whenever I faced ideological dilemmas and conflicts, all I had to do was discuss them with Comrade and get the clarity I needed. These discussions could be about anything, from the fall of the Soviet Union to Mayawati’s experiment on social engineering to the secondary status of women in the society. I could speak freely with Comrade and express my thoughts openly. What surprises me is that even today, in these trying times, I feel his invisible presence supporting me. I keep thinking and reflecting about the path that he chose in life; the alternatives and the strategies he adopted when faced with challenges; the decisions that he took; and the strength with which he dealt with the innumerable difficulties of life, both personal and social. The conversations that I had with him guide me even today; they aid me when I’m faced with difficult choices; they make me a calmer person; and they help me see through the masks that some people put on.
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