Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said 19th-Century spiritual leader Vivekananda would have been attacked today for endorsing humanity, reported NDTV. Tharoor was speaking at an event in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram that was also attended by social activist Agnivesh, who was beaten up allegedly by workers of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in Jharkhand in July.

“I am convinced if Swami Vivekananda were to come to today’s India, he would be the target of these goondas that Swami Agnivesh has been,” said Tharoor. “They will bring engine oil to throw at his face and will also try to knock him down on the streets because Swami Vivekananda would be saying, respect people. He would say humanity is more important.”

Tharoor cited data published by the Ministry of Home Affairs to claim that communal violence has been on the rise since 2014, when the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power. “In the past four years, 2,920 incidents of communal violence has been reported,” he said. “[There have been] 70 cases of cow vigilantism – of this 68 took place in the last four years under BJP rule.”

Tharoor also questioned why Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who wears “outlandish” headgear during his trips across the country and abroad, shuns the Muslim skull cap. “You have seen him in various hilarious extraordinary outfits,” said the Congress leader. “But doesn’t he wear the colour green?”

Last month, the Congress MP had stoked a controversy with his comment that India would turn into a “Hindu Pakistan” if the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government wins the 2019 General Elections. He made the remark a day after activists of the BJP’s youth wing vandalised his office in Thiruvananthapuram.

Agnivesh to move Supreme Court for probe into his assault

Meanwhile, social activist Agnivesh said he would approach the Supreme Court as it had been 18 days since he was assaulted and the Jharkhand Police had not acted against those responsible. “I am going to go to the Supreme Court anytime next week,” the Hindustan Times quoted him as saying. “These criminals have not been arrested even after 18 days of the attack. No one has been identified...This is all deliberate.”

Agnivesh questioned the prime minister’s silence on the matter. “That speaks volume, it is their design,” NDTV quoted him as saying. He warned that if the BJP wins the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, “you will have to forget democracy and constitution and fair elections”.

The BJP had distanced itself from the incident after the attack on the activist, and denied that its workers were responsible.

Agnivesh has been attacked in the past as well. In 2011, religious leader Nityanand Das assaulted Agnivesh at a public meeting over his comments on the Amarnath Yatra. The activist had described the annual pilgrimage as “pakhand”, or hypocrisy, a statement for which he was later criticised by the Supreme Court.