21 September 1939 |
Sakti, Chhattisgarh, India
Agnivesh (born 21 September 1939) is an Indian politician and a former Member of Legislative Assembly from the Indian state of Haryana, an Arya Samaj scholar, and a social activist. He is best known for his work against bonded labour through the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, which he founded in 1981. Agnivesh also founded and became president of the World Council of Arya Samaj, which he describes as an associate of the original Arya Samaj, and served as the chairperson of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery from 1994 to 2004.
Born as Shyam Vepa Rao in Sakti, Chhattisgarh, Agnivesh received his degrees in Law and Economics in Calcutta; thereafter he worked as a lecturer of Business Management at St. Xavier's College, Calcutta, from 1963 to 1968.
In 1970, Agnivesh founded Arya Sabha, a political party based on Arya Samaj principles as he himself formulated in his 1974 book, Vaidik Samajvad.
Agnivesh became a member of the Legislative Assembly of Haryana in 1977, and served as a cabinet Minister for Education in 1979 . In 1981, while still a minister, he founded the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, which continues to raise issues bonded labour in India, especially in the quarries in and around Delhi; he remains the chairperson of the organization. After leaving the Ministry, he was arrested twice, spending a total of 14 months in jail on charges of subversion and murder, of which he was later acquitted.
In March 2011, Maoist forces killed three members of the Chhattisgarh security and police forces; subsequently, the security forces allegedly attacked and burned an alleged Maoist village. When Agnivesh and his organization attempted to bring relief aid to the affected village families, a large demonstration attacked their cars with stones, claiming that the Maoists had killed many security forces over the last year.
Agnivesh took part in the anti-corruption protests in India in August 2011. Later, he broke away from the main group claiming that other protesters humiliated and conspired against him. A video showing Agnivesh speaking to a "Kapil," ostensibly Kapil Sibal who is a minister of Govt. of India and asking the Govt. to act tough on "adamant" protesters, was circulated in the Indian media and the internet. Agnivesh at first claimed it was another Kapil and later took the defense that the video was doctored.
Agnivesh testified before the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Later he created a new task for emancipation of womanhood, which was a helpful factor in the Commission of Sati (prevention) Act of 1987.
Agnivesh also argued at a conference on economic development and religion sponsored by the World Bank that people should be allowed full freedom of movement across borders through the elimination of all passports and immigration laws.
In 1968, Agnivesh went to Haryana to join the Arya Samaj and on March 25, 1970, Agnivesh took the sanyas vows. He was expelled from the organization in August 2008, after 17 of the 19 Arya Samaj Pratinidhi Sabhas in India expressed opposition to him.
In 2008, he addressed a large gathering at the Anti-Terrorism Global Peace Conference, at Ramlila Grounds, organized by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and several Islamic organizations, where he stated, "It is wrong to attribute the wrongdoings of a few individuals to the whole community. He also supported demand by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind on ban of singing Vande Mataram by muslim citizens of India.I would not mince words to say that the United States is the terrorist number one. To defame the Koran and Islam is the worst form of terrorism. Islam stands for peace and brotherhood and there cannot be a bigger lie than saying that Muslims are terrorists." Agnivesh is also a proponent of interfaith dialogue and is a member of the Board of World Leaders for the Elijah Interfaith Institute.
Agnivesh has been severely criticized by some Hindu groups for statements they view as anti-Hindu. In 2005, Agnivesh stated that the Puri Jagannath Temple should be opened to non-Hindus; this led to the priests of the temple condemning his remarks as "purely anti-Hindu in nature" and burning his effigy. In May 2011, hundreds of Hindu priests protested against Agnivesh’s claim that ice stalagmite that they believe resembles Lord Shiva is just a piece of ice; during the protest the priests burnt his effigy. According to the Kashmir Observer, the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindu nationalist political party, offered a 20 lakh bounty for killing Agnivesh, for negative statements he made about Kashmir and Baba Amarnath. On 8 November 2011,Supreme Court condemned Agnivesh for hurting the sentiments of Hindu People by commenting on Amarnath Pilgrimage.The apex court bench of Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice C.K. Prasad told Agnivesh that he should weigh his words "many a time before uttering them lest it hurts the sentiments of the people".
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- Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award - Delhi, India, 2004 (Religious & Communal Harmony Award 2004)
- Right Livelihood Award 2004 - Sweden
- M.A.Thomas National Rights Award 2006, Bangalore, India
- Vaidik Saamajvad - Vedic Socialism (Hindi), 1974.
- Religion Revolution and Marxism (Hindi and English)
- Harvest of Hate: Gujarat Under Siege, with Valson Thampu. Rupa & Co,India. 2002. ISBN 81-7167-858-0.
- Religion, Spirituality and Social Action New Agenda for Humanity: New Agenda for Humanity, Hope India Publications, 2003. ISBN 81-7871-000-5.
- Hinduism in the New Age, Hope India Publications, 2005. ISBN 81-7871-047-1.
- Rajdharma (fortnightly) - Chief Editor (1968–1978)
- Kranti Dharmi (monthly) - Chief Editor (1989–1991)
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- "Annual Report 2002". UNHCR. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
- Agnivesh - Profile Holy People of the World: A Cross-cultural Encyclopedia, by Phyllis G. Jestice.Published by ABC-CLIO, 2004. ISBN 1-57607-355-6. Page 25
- Swami Agnivesh - Profile New Slavery: A Reference Handbook, by Kevin Bales.Published by ABC-CLIO, 2004. ISBN 1-85109-815-1.Page 71-72.
- Swami Agnivesh (India), Joint Honorary Award with Asghar Ali Engineer (2004)- Profile Right Livelihood Award Official website.
- Children in Debt Bondage Children Enslaved, by Roger Sawyer. Published by Taylor & Francis, 1988. ISBN 0-415-00273-7. Page 55-57.
- "Late Night Live". Radio National, part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
- John, Joseph (27 March 2011). "Dantewada mob attacks Agnivesh; SSP, DM shifted". India Express. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
- "Team Anna conspired against me: Agnivesh". PTI. 2 Sept 2011.
- The History of Doing: An Illustrated Account of Movements for Women's Rights and Feminism in India, 1800-1990, by Radha Kumar, Kali for Women Organization, Published by Zubaan, 1993. ISBN 81-85107-76-9. Page 180.
- Pandey, Geeta (12 November 2005). "Religions target female foeticide". BBC. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
- Malhotra, Rajiv (2001). "Language Hegemony and the Construction of Identity". Infinity Foundation. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
- Madhya Bharat Arya Pratinidhi Sabha takes a strong stand on Swami Agnivesh The Daily Pioneer - August 26, 2008
- Social activist Agnivesh said: “It is wrong to attribute.. The Hindu, Jun 01, 2008.He also supported demand by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind on ban of singing Vande Mataram by muslim citizens of India.
- The Elijah Interfaith Institute - Hindu Members of the Board of World Religious Leaders
- Agnivesh Kicks off Storm at Puri Vaisnava News - December 2007
- "Hindu Group Puts Bounty On Agnivesh’s Head". The Kashmir Observer. 23 May 2011. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
- "Swami Agnivesh should weigh his words: Supreme Court". The Times Of India. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
- "I'm not an entertainment material: Swami Agnivesh". Times of India. November 8, 2011.
- Swami Agnivesh - Biography betterworldheroes.com..
- `Alternative Nobel' for Asghar Ali Engineer, Swami Agnivesh Business Line, Sept 21, 2004.
- St. Thomas award for Agnivesh , The Tribune, Chandigarh, June 27, 2006