Who is Swami Agnivesh?

Swami Agnivesh is widely known for his campaign against bonded labour through his foundation Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labor Liberation Front)

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Published: July 18, 2018 2:54:38 pm
swami agnivesh, indian express Swami Agnivesh is widely known for his campaign against bonded labour through his foundation Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labor Liberation Front) (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

Swami Agnivesh is a scholar, activist, and spiritual leader. Born to a Brahmin couple in Andhra Pradesh, Swami Agnivesh renounced his name and caste, religion, family, and all his belongings and property to lead the life of a sannyasin.

He is widely known for his campaign against bonded labour through his foundation Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labor Liberation Front). His public work spurred him to enter active politics. He was elected to the Haryana Assembly in 1977 and was made education minister after two years. He, however, resigned from the post in protest against the Haryana government’s inaction against police who had opened fire at workers protesting bonded labour.

Swami Agnivesh also led several initiatives to foster peace and interfaith harmony in Kashmir at the height of militancy, his website notes. In 2010, he was tasked by the Congress government to open a dialogue with the Maoist leadership. A year later he was part of the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare. He was forced to split from the group after a video surfaced allegedly showing him speaking to a minister from the Congress government. It was around this time that Swami Agnivesh appeared on reality TV show Bigg Boss as a guest.

Swami Agnivesh, who was president of World Council of Arya Samaj till 2014, had angered Hindu groups for his comments on Amarnath shrine in Jammu & Kashmir.  Agnivesh, they alleged, insulted Lord Shiva by saying that the ice stalagmite doesn’t hold any religious significance.

A bounty was put on his head by a Hindu group for his alleged derogatory remarks. He was condemned by the Supreme Court for hurting the sentiments of Hindu People.

In 2018, he was attacked by protesters allegedly belonging to the BJP’s youth wing in Jharkhand.  Videos of the attack sowed protesters asking Agnivesh to “go back” while calling him a “Pakistani agent”.

The incident happened when Agnivesh was exiting a hotel in Pakur when a group of protesters assaulted him. Agnivesh fell to the ground, his clothes were torn and his turban pulled off. Agnivesh was treated by doctors for minor injuries. The police have registered an FIR against eight BJYM activists, including its district president, and a special investigation team was formed to probe the incident.

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