unusual swami (religious teacher) has been consistently
doing battles on behalf of the poor, the weak and the defenseless
of India. Agnivesh's campaigns have led him to fight alcoholism,
female foeticide, bonded labour, child labour as well as struggle
for the emancipation of women.
He looks like a sadhu (holy
man), talks like a politician and – most importantly – voices
the case of the underprivileged millions of India. Swami Agnivesh
is a strange man by all counts. He puzzles and provokes at once,
and is loved by the masses.
Unlike the politicians
who mouth religion between the teeth of communalism, Agnivesh
participates in politics as an outworking of his spirituality.
He bridges politics and religion with the plank of social justice.
In a way parallel to the liberation theologians of Latin America,
the swami has been waging war relentlessly on behalf of the
poor, the weak and the defenseless of India.
He preaches. But
preaches only what he practices. His words catch fire in the
heat of his involvement imprinted with the zeal of compassion.
He leads and inspires. His date 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
‘My saffron garb,’
you will hear Swamiji say, ‘is my uniform for socio-spiritual
action, a call to battle on behalf of the oppressed.’ Saffron
is the colour of sacrifice, commitment and purity and he believes
it helps him in his work of love, truth, compassion and justice.
He says with utmost realism: "If my clothes come in
the way of this, I won’t mind renouncing them. It matters
little if you call me "Swami Agnivesh" or simply
"Agnivesh". All that matters is that the fire
inside of me, the presence of the divine in the inner temple
of my being, should continue to blaze till the end.
He narrates a tale
of how during a visit to the island of Mindanao in the Philippines
to be with the rebels encamped there, he was told that his saffron
garb would make him highly conspicuous. ‘Then, I quickly switched
over to jeans and a T-shirt,’ he says.
is easily the most distinguished leader of the Arya Samaj. Last
year, he was appointed the Chairperson of the UN Trust Fund
on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. He is better known across
India for his campaigns against bonded labour, and is founder-head
of the Bandhu Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labour Liberation Front).
Recently, he has been appointed the Prsident of
the World Council of Arya Samaj (Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha).
So far, his campaigns
have led him to fight against alcoholism, female foeticide,
bonded labour, child labour, and for the emancipation of women.
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