New Delhi: Social activist Swami Agnivesh was assaulted on Tuesday in BJP-ruled Jharkhand allegedly by BJP Yuva Morcha workers. The 78-year-old activist was attending an event in Pakur when he was attacked by a mob as he stepped out of a hotel.
The attackers hurled slogans like “Jai Sri Ram” and “Go back Agnivesh”, beat him, pushed him to the ground and tore at his clothes. The attackers had reportedly been aggravated by Swami Agnivesh’s “anti-Hindu” comments.
Manohar Manav, an associate of Swami Agnivesh, who was accompanying him when the attack took place, told The Wire that both of them had come to Jharkhand to participate in a programme of Adivasis. “We were coming out of the guest house and heading towards the venue when we were attacked by activists of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha.”
Manav said it was around a 100 strong mob which attacked them. “We had not received any threats or warnings before the attack. It came completely as a surprise. We were walking down from the guest house at around 1 pm. and were approaching our car when the Hindutva group just attacked us. They kept accusing us of working against the interests of Hindus,” he said.
Chief Minister Raghubar Das has ordered the police to thoroughly probe the incident.
A video of the attack has been uploaded to social media.
Swami Agnivesh attacked by mob in Jharkhand. Blames BJP youth wing for the attack. BJYM alleges that he was inciting tribals. pic.twitter.com/JxsqJvSEq8
— Aadesh Rawal (@AadeshRawal) July 17, 2018
“As soon as I came out of the venue, BJYM and ABVP activists attacked me without any provocation. They alleged that I was speaking against Hindus,” Swami Agnivesh told PTI. “I thought Jharkhand was a peaceful state, but my views have changed after this incident,” he told.
“I had offered to hold a dialogue with them. But nobody came to speak to me. I was going to a seminar with my tribal friends when they launched an attack. They were carrying black flags and without any warning pounced on me. They punched, kicked and dragged me on the ground,” Swami Agnivesh told NDTV.
“I pleaded with them with folded hands… But they didn’t think it was necessary to tell me why they were raining blows on me. They just went on and on,” Swami Agnivesh said.
Manav said at the time of the attack they felt that they would probably be lynched by the mob. “It appeared to be a mob lynching kind of attack,” he quipped. He said the attackers had after raining blows on the two of them allowed them to go back into the guest house. “We were then brought to the local hospital.”
Accusing the Raghubar Das government of the BJP of orchestrating the pre-planned attack, he said from the manner in which the attack went on for nearly ten minutes and how the attackers stayed put at the spot for another hour-and-a-half, kept raising slogans and were still not arrested, it clearly appeared to be a handiwork of the government.
Manav said on coming to Jharkhand, Agnivesh had also sought time from the chief minister but was not granted a meeting. On the reason for their visiting the state, the associate of Swami Agnivesh said they wanted to oppose the attempts by corporates, in collusion with the state, to grab the lands of Adivasis.
The BJP, which has said that the incident isn’t surprising considering the activist’s “track record”, vehemently denied that any of the party’s workers had been involved in the incident. “They weren’t workers of our party. We condemn this but his track record is such that this reaction doesn’t come as surprise. Pakur has recently been in news for religious conversion,” Jharkhand BJP spokesperson P. Shahdeo told the Indian Express.
According to NDTV, 20 men have been detained and the police is sifting through CCTV footage and other evidence to find the culprits. The attack appears to be pre-meditated, the police said. Superintendent of police Shailendra Prasad Burnwal told PTI that he did not have any prior information about Agnivesh’s programme in the district.
This isn’t the first time Swami Agnivesh has been assaulted by a mob. In 2011, he was attacked twice while attempting to deliver relief supplies to a village that had been torched to the ground in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district, allegedly by security forces. His attackers in this instance were several special police officers of the Chattisgarh police and members of Salwa Judum.
In an interview with The Hindu, Agnivesh had that said “the first attack occurred early in the morning when a crowd of SPOs and Judum members surrounded the vehicle, pelted him with raw eggs, knocked off his turban and pushed him around”. All the relief material was also stolen.
In 2015, he took on Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Pravin Togadia over his “communally charged” comments on how Muslims alone are to blame for cow slaughter in the country.
“The Hindu display of devotion towards cow is so fake and flimsy that thousands of cows are left to roam on the streets to rummage from the stinking garbage,” he said, in a statement that can be found on his website. Adding that “Prime Minister Narendra Modi should effectively put a check on the likes of Togadias”.
“It is sinister to use the cow issue to fan communal politics and to polarise votes on Hindu-Muslim lines,” he said.