He was in the city to launch ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ – a movement to foster social harmony
Even on Gandhi Jayanti, the most notable day for the practice of non-violence, Swami Agnivesh – Indian monk and human rights activist, who has devoted his entire life to Gandhi’s principles was greeted with violence as he launched his social harmony movement, ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’.
“This spiritual, social, economic, ecological and political movement is the need of the hour across the world, including in India, which is festered by social evils like female foeticide and mob lynching, political and religious hatred and narrow interpretation of nationalism,” Agnivesh said while launching the movement in the state capital on Tuesday. He said he chose Kerala to flag off his movement because – “Kerala seemed to be ideal place for its launch considering the inspiration we could draw from this inclusive society. Though dark forces of fanaticism and communal disharmony are trying to make inroads into the state, people here have put up a strong resistance.”
At the event honoring Mahatma Gandhi and his preachings, Swami Agnivesh had just begun addressing the audience about traditional medicine and healing, a group of right wing Hindus, clearly supporters of the BJP and RSS, stormed the stage and threatened Swamiji. One among this mob actually made it onto the stage before the police and security personnel managed to escort Swamiji to safety. However, no arrests were made.
When a member of the security team at the event asked one of the men trying to stop the event about what the matter actually was, he answered saying that the auditorium was in the temple premises and since Swami Agnivesh was anti-Hindu should not have been allowed to hold a gathering there. On being asked how he knew if Swamiji was anti-Hindu, the man had no answer.
Saptagiri Iyengar, Co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights who was also part of the security team at the event recounted the event saying that he felt visible tension building up just after Swamiji ‘s introduction. He said there were very loud protest calls by a group of people against Swamiji and people started approaching the stage and a few minutes later there was a person a few feet away from Swamiji threatening him. Comments of asking Swami Agnivesh to go to Pakistan were also passed by the group.
Language being a barrier for the security team, they asked the audience what the group was protesting about. The attendees apprised them that the goons were from the BJP and RSS and disagreed with his ideals. It was fortunate that Swami Agnivesh had been provided with security just a day before this shameful incident. Had this not been the case, matters could have taken a turn for the worse.
Swami Agnivesh has been vocal and persistent in his call for a return to the secular and inclusive India, and his opposition to the Hindu nationalism of the current government. Attacks on Swami Agnivesh by the BJP are not new. In July 2018, the nationally prominent 79-year-old social activist known for his work against bonded labour, was slapped, kicked around and verbally abused in Jharkhand’s Pakur town by a mob, which he said belonged to BJP-affiliated youth groups who accused him of speaking against Hindus.
In August 2018, he was assaulted by BJP workers on his way to pay tribute to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The assault took place at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg in New Delhi.