Activist and Arya Samaj Leader Swami Agnivesh Passes Away at 80

Agnivesh will be remembered as an activist who encouraged dialogue between religions.

2 min read
File image of social activist Swami Agnivesh.

Former Haryana MLA and Arya Samaj leader Swami Agnivesh, passed away at a New Delhi Hospital on Friday, 11 September at the age of 80.

He was hospitalised at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences in New Delhi due to liver cirrhosis and was in a critical condition.

He was on ventilation since Tuesday due to multiple organ failure.

Agnivesh was born as Vepa Shyam Rao in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam in 1939. He studied law and commerce and taught at St Xavier’s College Kolkata.

Based on the principles of the Arya Samaj, Agnivesh founded a political party called Arya Sabha in 1970 and became a member of the Haryana legislative assembly in 1977. He was a strong proponent of religious harmony and encouraged dialogue between religions.

He was also involved in various forms of social activism, leading campaigns against female foeticide and the emancipation of women.

He often faced hostility from right-wing Hindutva groups. For instance, In 2018, he was attacked by alleged members of the BJP’s Youth Wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha in Jharkhand. The attackers kept beating him even after he collapsed on the ground.

Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan hailed him for standing for tolerance even in the face of such attacks.

"The demise of Swami Agnivesh is a huge tragedy. A true warrior for humanity and tolerance. Among the bravest that I knew, willing to take huge risks for public good.Was brutalised in Jharkhand by a BJP/RSS lynch mob 2 yrs ago. Liver got damaged. RIP Agnivesh ji", tweeted activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

Activist John Dayal, who worked closely with Swami Agnivesh wrote on his Facebook wall, “Who else, clad in the dress once worn by Swami Vivekananda, could argue and answer back everyone from a Shankaracharya down to the knife bearing thug who said he was protecting India?”.

Others echoed his sentiments.

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