Dear EditorAt the age of 81 years, Andhra Pradesh Srikakulam’s Brahmin family born Vepa Shyam Rao, famed as social activist and veteran Arya Samaj leader ‘Swami Agnivesh’ (clothed in fire), who used to say ‘I am not in saffron. I am clad in fire. I am Agni,’ and who championed the rights of bonded labourers, passed away. Famed as Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded-Labourer Liberation Front) Founder, he was believed not only to be instrumental in release of thousands of bonded workers from industrial units, brick kilns and construction sites (including underage children, women) in and around Delhi, but also in 1994 he was made head of UN Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, and for his sincerity he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, often called as ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ in 2004. Like many others, Swami Agnivesh also set out to achieve as a young management graduate, and later collected degrees in law and commerce besides teaching in Jesuit institutions. In 2005, he demanded that Puri’s Jagannath Temple should be opened for non-Hindus which led to priests of the temple condemning his remarks as ‘purely anti-Hindu in nature.’ He also led a march ‘Raj Bhawan Chalo’ on death anniversary of journalist Gauri Lankesh. Word ‘fear’ was not in his dictionary, so he also appeared in reality show Bigg Boss. His stay in the show, known to court controversies, ended when Arya Samaj ousted him for it. In his ouster meeting, Agnivesh said that he came onboard to spread awareness about social issues. Its a pity that when Swami Agnivesh advocated rights of marginalised people in society and went to Pakur district of Jharkhand to address a rally of farmers and triba, he was attacked by a mob which knocked off his turban and assaulted him. He blamed the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, affiliated to the BJP that had earlier called a protest against him for being ‘Naxal sympathizer’. Many believe it led to internal injuries of limbs and liver out of which he never recovered fully. But it is really shameful that former CBI Director M Nageswara Rao in his tweeter said, ‘GOOD RIDDANCE @swamiagnivesh. You were an Anti-Hindu donning saffron clothes. You did enormous damage to Hinduism. I am ashamed that you were born as a Telugu Brahmin. Lion in sheep clothes. My grievance against Yamaraj is why did he wait this long!’ It clearly indicated what type of people are appointed to such crucial posts like judicial, CAG and other investigating agencies. RIP and salute to the reformist, a great social worker and great soul.Bidyut Kumar ChatterjeeFaridabad.
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