An odd Wednesday with Agnivesh

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Kaushal Kishore |follow @mrkkjha

Agnivesh is no more! During the pandemic when the world seems to be busy with the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, L.K. Joshi called me to share about the demise of social reformer, Arya Samaja leader and a common friend, Swami Agnivesh. Only a few people joined his last rites due to the restrictions of lockdowns and the COVID-19 positive status. He was among the top admirers of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati and Lalaji (AKA Lala Lajpat Rai). He has compared the duo with Marx and Lenin in the context of Indian freedom struggle. Apart from giving new heights to this love and devotion, he will be long remembered for many more reasons. Actually this is the first case of the corona comorbidity among my friends and acquaintances. However, he was not well since last couple of years, and has been admitted to the hospital for last few weeks. Then there was the report of an infection and the ventilator service before taken away from us. I am sad to know about this loss. In my opinion his biography is worth writing. Today it’s his 81st birth anniversary.

It’s impossible to forget such a revolutionary consciousness. He was born among the Brahmins on the border of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. Once told me about his birthplace that was a part of Odisha at that time, now in Andhra Pradesh. He has started teaching law and economics at a prestigious college and practicing law at the Calcutta High Court in late sixties and early seventies. Swami Indravesh and Maharishi had profound impact that turned him into Swami Agnivesh at the prime of youth. The rationalist leader walked on the Grand Trunk Road of the Arya Samaja in North India to create the history. He wrote Socialism in the Vedas, and delivered the interpretations of Maharishi’s Satyarth Prakash before fully accepting politics as the best medium of public service. At the age of 34 he was the youngest Education Minister in Government of Haryana. Maharishi and Lalaji focused on the Cow Protection and the ban on Liquor that he has pursued vigorously throughout the life. Ganga Jamuna Tehzeeb and the Inter-Religious Dialogues were his other interests. Moreover, he remained interested in the secular political parties, but none of them were ready to bear the risk. Agnivesh has been a dynamic proponent of friendship with Pakistan and peace among Hindu, Muslim and other communities of Kashmir Valley.

Despite all the oddities and oppositions he stands firm with the strong faith in his ideals and faced great difficulties. The long struggle against the bonded labour and child labour gained widespread recognition. It’s not possible to deny his existence because of his stand on mining workers, orphaned people, victims of displacement along with the tribals and dalits. There is no shortage of acquaintance with people from the top to bottom for a long time. As such the admirers from small and large countries of the world will remember him in different ways. The mourning meet started on the very next day at the headquarter of All India Panchayat Parishad that was presided by Subodh Kant Sahay. Here, I have paid the silent tribute to him.

Maharishi opposed the idol worship. This was one of the ten commandments of the new Hindu sect, Arya Samaja that he has started against Islam, Christianity and the British colonialism, eighteen years after the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. That was initial step of modern Indian nationalism based on Hindi, Hindu and purification. After fifty long years, Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh came into existence preferring Swami Vivekananda’s views on idol worship to dream the Ram Mandir and Ram Rajya. Most of the Arya Samaja left Maharishi Dayanand to realise the Ayodhya dream in the decades of eighties and nineties. But Agnivesh stood steadfastly with Maharishi against the idol worship. On this issue, due to very harsh criticisms of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he was forced to face the brutality of violence. The sad act of violence started at Pakur in Jharkhand and repeated during the funeral procession of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His condition was not good since then onwards. Despite this, his activism did not decrease. In this country of Kabir and Dayanand such acts of violence with a non-violent person is inappropriate that denounced the classical and non-classical traditions of dialogue. That’s capable of enriching the indigenous oral traditions.

At a time when multinational corporations like Alibaba and Amazon introduced the world with a new kind of colonialism, his works attract attention on the plight of tribes in the forests. During this pandemic, it seems whatever is not digital is not existing on this earth. If he were alive, he would speak further on this issue. Now there is no one like him among the people working on the situation of tribals in the Naxalite areas. He has explained it as a counter-revolution after the independence. Wherever there was a mass movement against exploitation and oppression, he was also present.

Agnivesh has struggled till the last moment like Lala Lajpat Rai. We were together five years ago during the 150th anniversary of Lalaji. The four member delegation from Servants of the People Society and Tilak School of Politics met with then Vice President Dr. Hamid Ansari. I was also a part of it with Dr. V.P. Vaidik, Sw. Agnivesh and L.K. Joshi. That day, Dr. Ansari decided in principle to come but not fixed its schedule. Latter we’ve scheduled it on first Wednesday of May 2015. On that day the Justice Rajinder Sachar presided over and the Vice President of India has delivered a historical address on a very sensitive issue i.e. communal harmony and restoration of peace. We were referring to him while talking about the events related to the centenary of the society and publication of Samaja, the Odiya daily.

We need to consider about this demise on the anniversary of terror attacks in this context. The man having revolutionary ideas departed in this era of violence. It is necessary to remember him for many other reasons as well. He tried to bring non-violence of Gandhi and Buddha into his life. But the rural communities continued to be viewed within the purview of socialist and capitalist interpretations. In fact, the community that the village refers to in the Indian subcontinent does not fit into the definitions of commune and civilization, but in the cultures and dialects of the tribes. The story of Indian civilization is incomplete without Gautam Buddha, Adi Shankaracharya, Maharishi Dayanand and Gandhi. The origin of this civilization, which advocates for Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and Atithi Devo Bhava, is rooted into these cultures. His departure has ended our discussions on the fall of modern civilization and the evolution of cultures.

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