Social activist Agnivesh died at a hospital in Delhi on Friday due to liver disease. He was 80 years old.
“On September 11, his condition deteriorated and he went into cardiac arrest at 6 pm,” the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences said in a statement, according to The Indian Express. “Resuscitation was attempted but the stalwart passed away at 6.30 pm. ILBS joins the country in mourning the loss of this beloved leader.”
The former MLA from Haryana founded a political party, Arya Sabha, which followed the principles of the Arya Samaj. He was known for his efforts against bonded labour through his foundation Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labor Liberation Front).
Agnivesh was elected to the Haryana Assembly in 1977 and was made the education minister in 1979. However, he quit from his post in protest against the state government’s inaction against police personnel who had opened fire at workers demonstrating against bonded labour.
He had also spoken out against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2019 for his remarks against the Kerala government over Sabarimala temple row. The activist had described Modi’s comments as out of tune with the constitutional position he holds.
Several tributes began to pour in following the news of his demise. Advocate Prashant Bhushan tweeted: “The demise of Swami Agnivesh is a huge tragedy. A true warrior for humanity and tolerance. Among the bravest that I knew,willing to take huge risks for public good.Was brutalised in Jharkhand by a BJP/RSS lynch mob 2 yrs ago. Liver got damaged. RIP Agnivesh ji.”
In July 2018, Agnivesh was beaten up allegedly by workers of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in Jharkhand. 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.