Swami Agnivesh

Social rights activist, Swami Agnivesh, while accompanying Anna Hazare on a visit to Gujarat, was approached by a man on the pretext of garlanding him but instead pulled off his saffron turban and tried to hit him. Agnivesh had allegedly said that the Amarnath yatra was “religious deception.”

Soon after the incident police whisked away the attacker and identified him as, Mahant Nityanand Das, the chief of a temple near Nadiad. The Mahant had earlier announced a reward of 51,000 rupees for anyone who would hurl a shoe at Swami Agnivesh in public.

Born on September 21, 1939, Agnivesh is the founder of the World Council of Arya Samaj and a member of Jan Lokpal Bill Drafting Committee. He is best known for his work against bonded labour through the Bonded Labour Liberation Front which he founded in 1981. He has also served as Chairperson of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

The activist has been controversial due to his numerous anti-Hindu comments and beliefs. Recently hundreds of Hindu priests protested against his statement over Amarnath shrine which according to Agnivesh is just a stalagmite – an ice rock. On the annual pilgrimage, Agnivesh had said, “I do not understand those who go for the yatra. It is a religious deception. I do not believe in this type of religion. Religion is when you seek justice for the poor, for the oppressed,” he said on the sidelines of a Peace Conference in Srinagar.

Earlier, Agnivesh had pushed central government to initiate talks with Maoists with an “open mind”. He had been confident that the Maoists would respond to negotiation from the country’s top brass and they might even declare a ceasefire.

On this incident Agnivesh had said that he would not like to take any action against the man who according to him has misunderstood him.

Many human rights activists had strongly condemned the attack. However, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had demanded registration of a case against the social activist for his alleged remarks on Amarnath pilgrimage which, the rightwing Hindu organisation claimed, had hurt sentiments of Hindus.

During his recent visit to Kashmir, Agnivesh met Hurriyat Conference (G) leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and discussed the situation prevailing in Kashmir. He has strongly advocated revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and demanded an inquiry by a Supreme Court judge into the killing of civilians during last year’s summer unrest in Valley.

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