Social activist and Arya Samaj leader Swami Agnivesh passed away Friday at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences in New Delhi. He was 80.
Agnivesh had been suffering from liver cirrhosis and was put on ventilatory support on Tuesday due to multiple organ failure.
“His condition deteriorated today and he went into cardiac arrest at 6:00 PM. Resuscitation was attempted but the stalwart passed away at 6:30 PM,” said a statement by the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences.
But he was best known for his work against bonded labour through the Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labour Liberation Front), which he founded in 1981.
Born as Vepa Shyam Rao to a Brahmin family in Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh, Agnivesh studied law and commerce and taught law in Kolkata for some time. Later he decided to renounced his name, caste, religion, family, and property and to live the life of an ascetic.
In 1970, Agnivesh founded Arya Sabha, a political party based on Arya Samaj principles. He also became an MLA from Haryana in 1977 and served as a cabinet Minister for Education in 1979. It was during his time as a minister that he founded the Bonded Labour Liberation Front in 1981,which continues to raise issues surrounding bonded labour in India, especially in the quarries in and around Delhi; he remains the chairperson of the organisation.
Swami Agnivesh activism spanned various fields. He worked against Sati system and champoined for the rights of women he participated in a campaign against female foeticide in 2005.
He testified before the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva.
At a World bank conference on economic development and religion he argued for free movement of people across borders through the elimination of all passports and immigration laws.
In 2011 he was part of the team to negotiate with the Maoists along with In Feb 2011, Agnivesh along with Kavita Srivastava, Rajinder Sachar, Gautam Navlakha, Manu Singh & Harish Dhawan. He also urged the prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2013 to initiate a dialogue with the Naxalites.
Swami Agnivesh took part in the 2011 anti-corruption protests in India in August of that year but soon got disillusioned with it and separated himself from the movement.
Agnivesh advocated the rights of marginalised people in society and went to Pakur district of Jharkhand to address a rally of farmers and tribal. During this, allegedly a right-wing mob attacked upon him and he escaped from lynching somehow with help of local people. Activists of all over the country in India and even of other countries condemned the incident.
He also led the march ‘Raj Bhawan Chalo’ on the death anniversary of journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Many believe that his efforts to reform society and to bring facts based on logic about superstition and false agendas of all religions.
The mortal remains of Swami Agnivesh will be kept at his Jantar Mantar residence from 11 am to 2 pm for Antim Darshan. The last rites will take place in Gurugram at 4 pm on Saturday.