The darkest day: Attack on Swami Agnivesh

SabrangIndia recalls the shocking attack on Swami Agnivesh by right-wing extremists opposed to his secularism and battle against prevalent social evils

Fascist sections of society continue to spew venom against social activist Swami Agnivesh on social media platforms mere hours after his death. His work in the field of bonded labour and child rights had earned him many enemies over the years. However, the attempted-chaos of these hate-mongers pales in comparison to the mob-lynchings that Swamiji has had to face over the course of his life.

Some of these lynchings were as recent as August 17, 2018 when the saffron-clad activist was allegedly attacked by BJP workers when he was enroute to pay his respects to late Indian statesman Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

However, the attack on July 16, 2018 was far worse when Swamiji was allegedly brutally assaulted by a BJP mob in Jharkhand. Those close to the activist claimed that the day marked the start of his declining health.

That day Swamiji was to attend a seminar in Pakur, Jharkhand. A crowd of BJP workers outside his hotel protested his visit to the state alleging that he was hand-in-glove with Christian missionaries and worked against sanatan dharma.

The workers attacked him while chanting slogans of “Jai Shree Ram.” What followed was a horrendous incident of mob-lynching where Swamiji was punched, kicked, dragged and verbally abused by the crowd despite his pleadings.

Tigger warning: Visuals of physical assault

Surviving the attack, Swamiji said he had offered to have a dialogue with the angry mob but to no avail. The incident was widely condemned by politicians, civil society and activists alike as ‘an attack on democracy.’ The police detained 20 people on suspicion of a premeditated attack. However, the detained were soon allowed to go.

Later on, it transpired that the workers were provoked by a video wherein Swami Agnivesh ridicules the over-the-top comments made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His sharp and direct dismissal of the role of medical science in Hindu mythology (as claimed by Modi) seemed to have offended them. Over the years, Swamiji was known for his no-nonsense and secular attitude towards all religions.

Angered by the horrendous incident, people took to the streets in protest in Mumbai, Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Bengaluru, Tumkur in Karnataka, Jaipur, Khammam in Telangana as well as in the foreign land of Canada.

The protesters saw the attack as a muzzling of the voice of reason. They insisted that the attack must be taken seriously especially since it followed the killings of Narendra Dahbolkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh by the Hindu extremists.

Despite this traumatic event, Swami Agnivesh continued to fight for the rights of marginalised. He breathed his last at Delhi’s Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) on September 11, 2020.



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