21 September 1939 |
Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh, India
|Occupation||Social worker, scholar, politician|
Agnivesh full name is Swami 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 became president (2004-2014) of the World Council of Arya Samaj, which is the highest international body of the Arya Samaj movement originally established by Swami Dayanand Saraswati in 1875, and served as the chairperson of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery from 1994 to 2004.
Agnivesh was born Vepa Shyam Rao on 21 September 1939 in an orthodox Hindu family of Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh. He lost his father at the age of four. He was brought up by his maternal grandfather who was the Diwan of a princely state called Shakti, now in Chhattisgarh. He gained degrees in Law and Commerce, became a lecturer in management at the reputed St Xavier's College in Kolkata and for a while practiced law as a junior to Sabyasachi Mukherji who later would become Chief Justice of India.
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 surrounding bonded labour in India, especially in the quarries in and around Delhi; he remains the chairperson of the organisation. 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 Swami Agnivesh and his organisation attempted to bring relief aid to families in the affected village, they were met by a large group of demonstrators who attacked their cars with stones, claiming that the Maoists were responsible for the deaths of many security force personnel over the last year. Swami Agnivesh, winner of the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize (the Right Livelihood Award), 2004, is a cyclonic Swami. At the young age of 28, he abandoned a promising career as a professor of law and management in Calcutta for a life of activism. Born into a Brahmin - upper caste - South Indian family, he shed his name, caste, religion, family, and all his belongings and property to adopt the life of a 'Swami' or renunciate, and began his life's crusade for social justice and compassion. Seventy five-year-old Swami Agnivesh is easily the most distinguished leader of the Arya Samaj. He was elected as the President of the World Council of Arya Samaj (Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha) in 2004. In 1994, he was appointed the Chairperson of the UN Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. He is better known across the globe in general and India in particular for his campaigns against bonded labor, and is founder-Chairperson of the Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labor Liberation Front). For over four decades Swami Agnivesh has campaigned for the rights and dignity of 'bonded labour' or inter-generational slaves, and child labour, and restored their freedom through path-breaking new legislation. Swami Agnivesh's campaigns have led him to fight alcoholism, female foeticide, bonded labor, child labor, injustice to Tribals and Adivasis, as well as struggle for the emancipation of women and even the violence against animals. His current 'mission' includes fighting the consumer culture and the Western model of development in India, opposing Western cultural imperialism, and battling casteism, obscurantism and communalism. He established the Movement for the Freedom of Bonded Labour (Bandhua Mukti Morcha). He has advocated relentlessly for women's rights, taking on the most controversial issues such as female foeticide, plight of child widows, practice of sati and dowry deaths. As an environmental activist, he draws on Gandhian wisdom to advocate simplicity and sustainability and economic rights, and to deplore the economics of greed that accompanies globalization. While Swami Agnivesh's chief preoccupation is social justice and rights, he has also championed the search for peace in violent conflicts. He has led numerous initiatives to foster peace and interfaith harmony in Kashmir during the worst periods of violence. He partook in a peace march to Palestine 2012. His particular concern at present is the Maoist conflict that is spreading across large swathes of central India. In 2010 Swami Agnivesh was appointed by the Government of India as the mediator to foster dialogue between the government and the Maoist leadership. He is at present deeply concerned with the plight of the aboriginal Indians called Adivasis dwelling in this area for millennia, who are facing the brunt of this conflict. Swami Agnivesh has also spearheaded the interfaith and inter-religious movement nationally and globally. He has steered it towards genuine responsible engagement in overturning many of the social scourges that religions inadvertently or deliberately support. The Sarva Dharma Sansad or All Faiths Parliament he established in India in 2007 is the first interfaith movement that includes both women and men leaders. Swami Agnivesh also hosted a weekly television debate on parliamentary TV called 'Vichar Manthan' or Thought Forum where eminent experts addressed burning social and political issues amongst a live audience of youth from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Swami Agnivesh is a man of action. He preaches but preaches only what he practices. His dedication to work with the oppressed and passion for social justice are as old as his political career which goes back many years to his entry into the Haryana Assembly in 1977. His activism, appearance and understanding leaves a lot of us astonished and at the same time provokes us to strive hard for social amelioration while generating love and respect among the masses. Swami Agnivesh participates in politics as an outworking of his spirituality and he bridges politics and religion with the plank of social justice.
Swami Agnivesh took part in the 2011 anti-corruption protests in India in August of that year. He would later break away from the main group of protesters, claiming that certain protesters had humiliated and conspired against him for political reasons. A video purporting to show Swami Agnivesh speaking to one "Kapil" (ostensibly Kapil Sibal, who was then a minister), suggesting that the government should deal more firmly with "adamant" protesters, was circulated in the Indian media and via the internet. Swami Agnivesh at first claimed another "Kapil" was being referred to in the footage but would later assert that the video itself was doctored.
Swami 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 25 March 1970, Agnivesh took the sanyas vows. He was expelled from the organisation 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, organised by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and several Islamic organisations, where he stated, "It is wrong to attribute the wrongdoings of a few individuals to the whole community." He also supported the demand by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind that banned the singing of 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." 
Ahmed deedat invited him for debate on ISLAM AND HINDUISM, eventually he did not attend the debate due to unknown reason. Ahmed deedat lecture available on youtube.
Agnivesh is also a proponent of interfaith dialogue and is a member of the Board of World Leaders for the Elijah Interfaith Institute. He is also a board member of the KAICIID Dialogue Centre established in Vienna in 2012 by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, together with the governments of Austria and Spain. In 2015, he opposed Government's plan of separate settlement for Kashmiri Pandits as part of their rehabilitation in the valley.
Criticism from Hindu groups
Agnivesh has been severely criticised 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 2 million bounty for killing Agnivesh, for negative statements he made about Kashmir and Baba Amarnath. On 8 November 2011, the Supreme Court condemned Agnivesh for hurting the sentiments of Hindu People by commenting on the 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".
Bigg Boss Participation
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