Former CBI interim chief and retired IPS officer M Nageswara Rao has stirred up a hornet’s nest with his tweet in which he termed renowned social activist Swami Agnivesh’s death as “good riddance”.
Calling Agnivesh “anti-Hindu”, Rao tweeted that activist did “enormous damage to Hinduism”. “Good Riddance Swami Agnivesh. You were an anti-Hindu donning saffron clothes. You did enormous damage to Hinduism. I am ashamed that you were born as a Telugu Brahmin. My grievance against Yamaraj is why did he wait this long!” he said.
Agnivesh, a veteran Arya Samaj leader who championed the rights of bonded labourers, passed away on Friday at the age of 81. Critically ill, Agnivesh had been admitted to the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) in New Delhi for treatment of “liver damage”, and died of multi-organ failure. Always clad in saffron, Agnivesh rejected idol worship as an avid follower of Arya Samaj principles. But it was his work to free bonded labourers that he would become known for.
Rao’s tweet invited flak from several quarters, with many calling it wrong to “abuse the dead”. Noted historian S Irfan Habib, in a tweet, slammed Rao saying, “You are a disgrace. Can imagine what all you must have done as a police officer? Abusing the dead may be Hindutva but is certainly not Hinduism. Better late than never. Get yourself treated.”
You are a disgrace. Can imagine what all you must have done as a police officer? Abusing the dead may be Hindutva but is certainly not Hinduism. Better late than never. Get yourself treated. https://t.co/Shh4zlmduc
— S lrfan Habib (@irfhabib) September 12, 2020
The Indian Police Foundation (IPF), a multidisciplinary think-tank based in Delhi, said Rao “desecrated” the police uniform and “embarrassed” the government. “Tweeting such hate messages by a retired officer posing as an IPS officer – he has desecrated the police uniform which he wore and embarrassed the government. He demoralises the entire police force in the country, especially the young officers.” IPF tweeted.
Human rights worker and writer Harsh Mander said: “Very sad to read this tweet by a serving police officer, flaunting such uncivility and communal bias re Swami Agnivesh, a man far taller and better than he will ever be, just after his passing. That he feels he can display his bigotry so brazenly reflects on those who lead the nation.”
Congress national spokesperson Pawan Khera also disapproved of Rao’s tweet, saying that Swami Agnivesh “stood like a rock to stop RSS from appropriating and swallowing the AryaSamaj.”
“As a Hindu, I admire the space my Dharma gave even to the adherents of Charvaka. Hinduism is too vast, deep & secure to even reject such stupid hatred that is seen in your tweet officer,” Khera said further slamming Rao.
#SwamiAgnivesh stood like a rock to stop #RSS from appropriating & swallowing the #AryaSamaj.
As a Hindu, I admire the space my Dharma gave even to the adherents of Charvaka. Hinduism is too vast, deep & secure to even reject such stupid hatred that is seen in your tweet officer https://t.co/aWRYTSBStD
— Pawan Khera (@Pawankhera) September 12, 2020
Rao was appointed CBI interim director on October 23, 2018, following a turf war between the then director Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana. Last year, he was shunted out as CBI Additional Director and was appointed as Director-General of Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards until his superannuation on July 31, 2020.
The former IPS has had a controversial career with questions over his perceived proximity to Hindutva ideology, and also about his wife’s alleged financial transactions with a Kolkata-based trading company, a charge he denied.
This is not the first time that Rao has made controversial remarks. Earlier this year, Rao claimed that Indian history had been “distorted” with the “whitewashing” of “bloody Islamic invasions/rule” and named previous Education Ministers who “were in charge of Indian mind space” for 20 “out of 30 years (1947-77)”. It raised questions of propriety and service rules as he was then a serving IPS officer.
Previously, he had taken to Twitter in support of a ban on meat exports, and claimed that Hindu-Sanskrit literature was a good source for cinema. He also described certain comedians as “self-loathing anti-Hindus”.