Swami Agnivesh passes away

The Arya Samaj leader is known for his work against bonded labour.

Updated - September 11, 2020 09:41 pm IST

Published - September 11, 2020 09:05 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Swami Agnivesh

Swami Agnivesh

Social activist, scholar, politician and Arya Samaj leader Swami Agnivesh passed away at the Institute of Liver and Billary Sciences (ILBS) in New Delhi, on Friday, after he was hospitalised due to liver cirrhosis earlier this week. He remained critical after suffering multi-organ failure during the treatment, the hospital authorities said. He stayed on the ventilator and was monitored by a multi-disciplinary team. The 80-year-old leader went into cardiac arrest at 6 p.m. and resuscitation was attempted but he passed away at 6.30 p.m., the hospital authorities said in a statement on Friday evening. Agnivesh, a former MLA from Haryana, is known for his work against bonded labour through the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, which he founded in 1981. The organisation  worked on issues surrounding bonded labour in India, especially in the quarries in and around Delhi. Agnivesh became president (2004–2014) of the World Council of Arya Samaj, which is the highest international body of the Arya Samaj. He was also an advocate for dialogue between religions and remained involved in various areas of social activism including campaigns against female foeticide and the emancipation of women. He was a prominent associate of Anna Hazare during India Against Corruption's campaign in 2011 to implement the Jan Lokpal Bill and also served as the chairperson of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery from 1994 to 2004. Born in Andhra Pradesh, Agnivesh founded Arya Sabha in 1970, a political party based on Arya Samaj principles. Agnivesh was elected to the Haryana Assembly in 1977 and was made the State’s 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.

Condolence messages poured in for the departed leader with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeting: “Swami Agnivesh ji, the founder of Bandhu Mukti Morcha and revolutionary leader of Arya Samaj passed away today. Swami ji's death is an irreparable loss to the entire country including Arya Samaj. My humble tribute.’’  Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, senior lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan, were  among those who tweeted. "I am shocked and saddened by his passing. A man of vigour and conviction, he never looked, sounded or behaved his age! The country is diminished by his passing & I mourn with the millions whose rights he fought to uphold. Om Shanti,"  tweeted Mr. Tharoor. "The demise of Swami Agnivesh is a huge tragedy. A true warrior for humanity & 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 years ago. Liver got damaged," Mr. Bhushan said. In July 2018  Swami Agnivesh was  assaulted , allegedly by BJP Yuva Morcha workers chanting “Jai Sri Ram”, in Jharkhand's Pakur, where he was supporting tribal communities' protest against land acquisition by the state. Actor Shabana Azmi also tweeted saying: “Very saddened by the passing away of Swami Agnivesh due to multi organ failure. Influenced by Liberation Theology he worked to rescue and rehabilitate bonded labourers and was a force to reckon with in the eighties . RIP.”

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