Swami Agnivesh : A Rare Secular Monk-cum-Social Activist


Swami Agnivesh, a man in the saffron robe who fought against those who are trying to defame the saffron colour and the values associated with it died on 11 September after suffering a cardiac arrest at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences.

He was born in Andhra Pradesh and studied Law and commerce. He also worked as a management lecturer at St. Xavier’s college, kolkata and also practiced law under Sabyasachi Mukherji , who later went on to become the Chief Justice of India.

He was a former MLA from Haryana and also founded the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, in 1981. This organisation worked against Bonded labour in and around Delhi. He also became the president of the World Council of Arya Samaj ( the largest organisation of Arya samaj all over the World).  He devoted his life to make the society a better place for all the groups and communities.

He was an ardent supporter of dialogue and discussions amongst religion. He stood up for Women  Right  and their emancipation and campaigned against female foeticide.

Swami Agnivesh in a conference on economic development and religion sponsored by the World Bank, advocated free movement of people across borders by elimination of passports and various immigrant laws that different countries follow. He also worked for promotion of worldwide peace and took part in the Anti- Terrorism Global Peace conference organised at the Ramlila Grounds by Jamat- Ulema-e-Hind and various other islamic organisations.

Based on the ideology and principles of the Arya Samaj, he  formed a political party called the Arya Sabha in 1970. He was elected to the State Legislative Assembly of Haryana and he also served as the Education Minister for two years but nevertheless resigned due to the silence of Haryana government on the issue of open firing against the protesters who opposed bonded labour. He has even put in jail for a period of 14 months on the charges of subversion and murder , however was later acquitted.

Swami Agnivesh has also played a major role in starting negotiations with the maoist in 2011 along with with civil liberties activists like  Kavita Srivastava, and Harish Dhawan, Manu Singh, etc and in 2013 even urged the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indulge in dialogues with the naxalites.

He was also seen as an enthusiastic participant in the 2011 anti-corruption protest along with Anna Hazare and was in favour of implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill. He also served as the Chairperson of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery from 1994 to 2004.

Nevertheless he has also seen and been subjected to protest like the one in Jharkand in 2018, where he was assaulted by the BJP Yuva Morcha workers who were chanting ‘ jai shree raam’. Swami Agnivesh here was supporting the Tribal Protesters.

On hearing the news of his death, condolence

messages poured from across the Spectrum ranging from Mr. Shashi Tharoor to eminent lawyer like Mr. Prashant Bhushan and even actors like Mrs. Shabana Azmi.

The Congress interim  President, Ms.Sonia Gandhi went on to say that he was the most ‘’powerful’’ and ‘’effective’’ voice for the vulnerable and the defenseless , she also recalled how his faith and energy in constructive activism was admirable as well as inspiring.

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