Twitter on Saturday deleted a tweet by M Nageswara Rao, the former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, celebrating the death of social reformer Agnivesh, The News Minute reported.
“You were an anti-Hindu donning saffron clothes,” Rao had tweeted. “You did enormous damage to Hinduism. I am ashamed that you were born as a Telugu Brahmin.” Rao called Agnivesh a “lion in sheep’s clothing”. “My grievance against Yamaraj [the god of death] is why did he wait this long!” Rao said.
Agnivesh died at a hospital in Delhi on Friday due to liver disease. He was 80 years old.
The Indian Police Foundation, a think-tank working on police reform, condemned Rao’s remarks. “Tweeting such hate messages by a retired officer posing as an IPS officer – he has desecrated the police uniform which he wore and embarrassed the government,” the foundation tweeted. “He demoralises the entire police force in the country, especially the young officers.”
Twitter took down Rao’s tweet following backlash against the officer on the social media website. However, the former CBI chief refused to back down, comparing Agnivesh to “savages” and a “pest destroying society”.
He also attempted to take refuge in claiming that his freedom of expression and right to dissent had been violated, and quoted Voltaire:
Agnivesh, a 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.
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.
Here are some other tweets criticising Rao
Several politicians and civil society members also criticised Rao for his distasteful tweet.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera called out Rao for the “stupid hatred” in his tweet. “Swami Agnivesh stood like a rock to stop RSS from appropriating and swallowing the AryaSamaj,” he tweeted. “As a Hindu, I admire the space my Dharma gave even to the adherents of Charvaka. Hinduism is too vast, deep and secure to even reject such stupid hatred that is seen in your tweet officer.”
Historian S Irfan Habib referred to Rao as a “disgrace”. “Can imagine what all you must have done as a police officer?” he said. “Abusing the dead may be Hindutva but is certainly not Hinduism. Better late than never. Get yourself treated.”
Human rights activist Harsh Mander criticised Rao for “brazenly” displaying his bigotry. “Very sad to read this tweet by a serving police officer, flaunting such uncivility and communal bias re Swami Agnivesh, a man far taller and better than he will ever be, just after his passing,” he said in a tweet. “That he feels he can display his bigotry so brazenly reflects on those who lead the nation.”
Indian Police Services Officer RK Vij also criticised Rao’s tweet. “Insult to human life,” he said. “Sad.”
Laywer Navedeep Singh said Rao’s tweet disregarded humanity. “The tweet by this retired IPS officer goes against the very tenets of religion and basic humanity,” he said. “To think that he was serving in the Govt and dealing with public with such thoughts at the back of his mind just a few days ago.”