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Shashi Tharoor, former Union Minister and MP
- Agnivesh used to say – Defaming Islam and Quran is the worst form of terrorism.
- Since birth, Brahmin Agnivesh identified himself with the marginalized and downtrodden.
I first heard Swami Agnivesh when I was working in the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. He came there to testify before the Working Group on Contemporary Methods of Slavery. Now this Working Group and High Commission are not in existence.
Agnivesh's effective presence and his fiery speech, along with saffron clothes and a turban, made his burning eyes restless to those without frameless glasses. Those who heard him in action in Geneva could not forget him. He died on Friday last week at the age of 81. He was a mystery to many. The birth of a Brahmin Agnivesh was raised by his grandfather, who was a Diwan of a princely state. But, he identified himself with marginal and downtrodden people.
A Hindu monk who retired in 30 years continued to be targeted by some self-styled Hindutva supporters. He was a politician, MLA and also a cabinet minister in the state. He had not held any political post for the last several decades. He was an Arya Samajist, who was also the head of his international organization for a decade. He later parted ways to form his own Arya Sabha. In 2008, its parent organization expelled him.
He was a man who was committed to Indian issues and concerns and also had a broad international identity. He was chairman of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Types of Slavery from 1994 to 2004. Overall, he was an Indian who was born in Andhra Pradesh, grew up in Chhattisgarh, became an MLA in Haryana and knew the whole country. Above all, he was a social worker. Despite being a minister, his efforts against bonded labor through the Bonded Mazdoor Mukti Morcha resulted in considerable success.
Swami Agnivesh, born 81 years ago as Vepa Shyam Rao, will be remembered among the most extraordinary people in Indian public life, despite having covered all the controversies. It was my good fortune that I had known him since his entry into national politics about 12 years ago. He never practiced traditional electoral politics after the 1980s and did not gain any position for the elusive popularity of the vote. However, despite this he continued to campaign tirelessly for the issue he thought fit.
The man who had a law and commerce degree and who once practiced as a junior to a man who later became the Chief Justice of the country, spent all his life trying to challenge and change unjust laws. . He was also successful in some cases. Such as bonded wage redress laws. In many ways, he was also the spiritual proponent of the law to ban the practice of Sati.
Swami Agnivesh, a religious and spiritual thinker, concluded his Hindutva with his social beliefs and called it Vedic socialism. His tireless movement against issues ranging from child slavery to female feticide continued throughout the country. They narrowly survived attacks on them in the process. In Jharkhand, he was a victim of a mob.
Due to the movements, he also went to jail many times. He was arrested several times, but was never charged, nor punished. He had to stay in jail for 14 months once. He also helped to free five policemen abducted by Maoists in February 2011.
In recent years he was an admirable voice of religious tolerance and inter-religious harmony. He was called on many international forums to understand Islam and the Muslim community. He also interfered in the mass democracy on terrorism. He clearly said that it is wrong to accuse the entire community because of the wrongdoings of some people.
Many times he used to say his principles in such extreme language that many liberals like me also found it difficult to support them. He used to say- "I cannot change words to say that America is the world's biggest terrorist." Defaming Islam and the Quran is the worst form of terrorism.
Agnivesh, who was a critic of superstition and bigotry, was the target of some organizations because of his progressive ideas. Despite this, Swami Agnivesh was the person who put his life, time and energy behind his dreams. I will miss them om Shanti! (These are the author's own views)