Swami Agnivesh was allegedly assaulted by the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha
Swami Agnivesh was invited by a tribal group in Jharkhand to participate in a function | Rifat Jawaid/Twitter
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The 80-year-old Arya Samaji was assaulted because another group of Hindu men believed his version of Hinduism was too soft, too forgiving.

To see Swami Agnivesh sprawled on the ground Tuesday, his saffron robes climbing up his thighs, his turban thrown off his head, his feet naked, was nothing short of startling.

In this particular photo, his head is towards the unseen photographer, so you can’t really see his face. His right arm is raised, and he is being helped by someone who seems to have taken pity on an old man.

His head has been stripped off its familiar turban, the face off its square glasses. You have to peer forward into the photo to recognise the face of Swami Agnivesh. He actually has white hair.

Saffron vs Saffron

The familiar sardonic smile that makes the Swami a household face is now creased with fear. The saffron turban must have been his strength. Now that it lies somewhere, out of sight, knocked off by a man in a saffron bandana, fear rules. This is not Swami Agnivesh. This is an abandoned old man pleading with the young to just let him be.

Saffron Versus Saffron. My Hinduism is greater and better than yours. It’s my time now. Move over, oldie, get out of Jharkhand. That’s what the young man in the photo seems to be telling the distraught old man next to him.

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But the facts, first. Swami Agnivesh, the well-known Arya Samaj preacher, had been invited by a tribal group in Pakur district, Jharkhand, to participate in a function. As he emerged from his hotel, a group of young men allegedly from the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) “kicked, punched and showed (him) black flags,” according to The Times of India.

The boys reportedly said that he was there to convert Hindus into Christians. In his defence, Agnivesh said, “I am against any kind of violence. I am 80 years old and this happened to me for the first time. The state government must order a probe and arrest those who attacked me.”

Breaking free from ritualism

Growing up in an Arya Samaj household, I am familiar with Swami Agnivesh and his ilk. The Gayatri mantra rules our lives. Women are equal to men and must be economically independent. Go back to the Vedas, Swami Dayanand who started the Arya Samaj reform movement in the 19th century said, hoping to discount the extreme ritualism that had steeped into the Hindu faith.

My parents, refugees from Pakistan, clung on to the small, familiar practices. The Arya Samaj mandir on Sunday was an integral part of the week. All the siblings went too, to participate in the ‘havan’, to sing bhajans which had references to the Sindhu river (which the refugees had left behind in Pakistan) and end the prayer ceremony with “Jo bole so abhaya/Vaidya dharam ki jai!

The parents and their friends sometimes talked about “what they had left behind,” but not often. That Arya Samaj had a distinct anti-Islam undertone, I learnt much later. At the time, it was about picking up the pieces, taking pride in living in an independent, secular India, and moving on.

The siblings often teased my mother, “Look at Swami Dayanand’s pink lips in the poster!” It hung near her bedside, an intimate part of her and our growing up lives.

Not going far enough

Like a latter-day Dayanand, walking around the countryside in saffron, Agnivesh became a familiar figure. But having grown up on stories of our grandfather’s celebratory feasts – feeding everyone he worked with, including “Harijans” or Dalits because Arya Samaj said you cannot discriminate between castes – we sometimes felt Agnivesh never went far enough.

There was the time when I travelled with Swami Agnivesh to Nathdwara in Rajasthan in the mid-1980s, hoping he would break the cordon the temple priests had thrown around the temple so as to prevent lower castes from entering. But the district administration instead imposed Section 144 and Agnivesh, quietly, gave in.

Nevertheless, the man in saffron robes went from strength to strength, founding the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, chairing the UN Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery – which is what bonded labour are – and becoming the president of the World Council of Arya Samaj.

Somewhere in the background, the Swami lived his own parallel journey, participating in inter-faith conferences, and even staying in a Big Boss house for three days. Until the attack Tuesday, when he gate-crashed into our universe again. The 80-year-old Arya Samaji was assaulted because another group of Hindu men believed that his version of Hinduism was too soft, too forgiving.

Normalisation of hate

Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das has instituted an inquiry, of course. But it is as clear as the living daylight that the BJP has allowed a normalisation of hate to rule what once was one of the most peaceful parts of the country.

First, they came for the Muslim meat traders, because they didn’t like the fact that the Muslims were eating beef in Jharkhand – they weren’t. Now they are coming for the Hindu Arya Samajis, because they don’t like the fact that they are preaching a Hinduism different from theirs.

Perhaps this is what Swami Dayanand saw in the 19th century – Hindus treating other Hindus in terrible ways – which is why the man from Gujarat set about to reform the faith.

Everyone’s looking to the other man from Gujarat today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to say something and put an end to this horrific violence being wrought in the name of religion.

Even the Supreme Court has spoken, saying “mobocracy” cannot be allowed to become the new normal. But from the Prime Minister’s residence in the heart of Delhi, one can hear only the crashing sounds of silence.

Read in Hindi: मुसलमानों को निशाना बनाने के बाद अब स्वामी अग्निवेश पर शिकंजा कस रही है हिंदुत्व ब्रिगेड

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11 Comments Share Your Views

11 COMMENTS

  1. No GODI MEDIA, gave prominence to this really deserving news. It’s shameful that an eighty year old man is beaten by goondas. Whomsoever it may be should have been booked by now. Shame on our country where such things happen and nothing is done.

  2. Violence against any one in any form is commendable.
    Swami Agnivesh had been using violence through his words blatantly, repeatedly, incessantly demeaning FAITH of people. He may differ from the rituals, faith of any group, he may put forth his point of view gently to reform, as he thinks but to demean some one’s faith in public repeatedly in derogatory terms, for publicity or to please a section of society or to followers of another faith, is no less than a violence. He deserves action under suitable act of IPC.

  3. याद रखें!आज का कट्टर हिंदुत्ववाद, कल उन्मादी जातीय संघर्ष मे तब्दील हो कर, भीषण नरसंहार का गवाह बनेगा। :-उल्लिखित पंक्तियां मैंने 1जुलाई2017 को अपने फेसबुक पोस्ट में लिखी थी।

  4. I am shocked by the attacks and even more by some of the comments. Every society has a dark underbelly, a cancerous growth of extremist ideologies that must be kept in check. Religions contribute to it the most. Christianity passed through that phase and emerged stronger, Islam seems to be going through that phase and Hinduism has embarked on that journey. The excess of Christian dogma is what gave birth to liberal democracies as we know them. Given that caste divides us Indians, I fear India may not come out of this dark tunnel we are digging for ourselves. It may well become a grave.

  5. This what they do to a man who talk about peace and love.If your nationalism is to kill the one who didn’t agree with you, then sorry we cannot accept your concept of nationalism.

  6. Every one should be kicked in the same manner who are supporting this bastards faking as Arya Samaji. He has publically taken anti india, anti hindu stand and these shameless writers are defending him. Kick this author too..there is nothing to be ashamed in kicking a vile lady. The secular drama of india must stop. Abuse hinduism and face the consequences this should be the central theme now. You can’t take advantage of our love and tolerance for infinity. There is a limit to everything.

  7. Made a good reading. Proof Hinduism is captive in the hands of a few fringe elements and that would be good enough to cause a deep divide in our peace loving nation.

  8. This article is stinking. Agnivesh gave provocative lectures blatant offensive language was used against Hinduism. His speach is all over social media. He deserves to be booked for hate speech first and arrested for creating such unrest.

  9. The apex court has fired a warning shot. It will interpose itself in incidents of lynching – this, too, was one, although mercifully it only shook up the pious old man, did not kill him. This genie needs to go back into the bottle, before it starts tearing wide gashes in our social fabric.

  10. This Swami Agnivesh is anti Indian who sit next to yaseen mallik and speak against nation on different platform …. he deserve more and we hate such one sided jurnos. Is congress supporting this man? he deserve much more manhandling ….

    • God bless you with Enlightenmen
      Lies and Hatred will ruin you and our great nation – this will not prevail for India will rise and dispel and reject this Violence, Hatred and False hood has to go and you sir must follow the example of the Swamy Agnivesh the path is non violence and truth ! SATYAMEVA
      JAYATHE! The Truth Shall Prevail!

      M

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