Attack on Swami Agnivesh highlights intolerance in India, people react on twitter

Dubai: An old man beaten up, lay in a muddy puddle, a saffron shawl falling off his shoulders, his arm extended as if asking someone to help him stand. This was the photograph of Indian social activist Swami Agnivesh that went viral on Twitter on Tuesday.

The 78-year-old was allegedly thrashed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Yuva Morcha and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (right-wing youth groups following Hindutva ideology) members in Jharkhand for his “anti-Hindu” stance. Agnivesh is a popular Arya Samaji, or a scholar of an Indian Hindu reform movement based on the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. However, he is known for challenging BJP’s Hindutva ideology. He openly says that this is not true Hinduism and denounces blind superstition and religious customs.

A video of Agnivesh, being thrashed by a large crowd is currently doing rounds on social networking sites.

Trade Unionist and Human Rights Lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj (@Sudhabharadwaj) shared the video and tweeted: “Swami Agnivesh being attacked by BJP Yuva Morcha even as SC (India’s Supreme Court) gives a judgment against mobocracy.”

Many Indians took to Twitter to highlight the widespread intolerance in the country under the leadership of Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP.

Journalist @ShekharGupta wrote: “In 40+ yrs of knowing him … I have never seen the elegant arya samaji without his turban. This is heart-breaking. To do this to a man because you disagree with him. Never mind that he’s also saffron-clad.”

Historian @Ram_Guha tweeted: “Swami Agnivesh is known for his work to emancipate bonded labour, and for the promotion of inter-faith harmony. He also has a sense of fun, with a joyous laugh. A Hindu monk of courage, compassion, and humour; so naturally he must be beaten up in Modi’s India.”

Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi also condemned the attack. @k_satyarthi posted: “I condemn the attack on Swami Agnivesh in Jharkhand. I appeal to CM Sh. @dasraghubar to take swift action in this regard. Disagreement or dissent should not translate into an act of violence.”

BJP followers have called Agnivesh a fraud.

News agency Asian News International (@ANI) in a tweet, quoted Jharkhand Minister, CP Singh as saying: “As far as I know, Swami Agnivesh is a person who survives on foreign donations. The saffron dress that he wears is to deceive the simple Indians. He is a fraud and not a Swami. He had himself planned this attack to gain popularity.”

Tweep @rishibagree posted: “Did you know that the so called ‘Swami’ Agnivesh was expelled by Arya Samaj openly in 2008? He’s a fake Arya Swamaji.”

Like many other, tweep @Pawankhera highlighted that no matter what one’s political leaning was, beating up a person was not acceptable. He posted: “Is lynching an 80 year old activist new normal in New India? Whichever side of the political spectrum we are on, we better be worried. Very very worried. #SwamiAgnivesh”

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