Ranchi: Social activist Swami Agnivesh was punched, kicked and pushed to the ground by a 200-strong mob of BJP Yuva Morcha workers in Pakur on Tuesday(July 17), and Jharkhand chief minister has to order a high-level probe following a public outcry.
Why the youth workers had been protesting against Agnivesh’s visit to the district town, 400km from Ranchi is not immediately clear. Swami Agnivash was to participate in Damini Mahotsav, a tribal conclave. It is common knowledge that Swamiji is vociferous against the Hindu hardliners and the Sangh parivar concept of Hindutva .Some local journalists said the septuagenarian social worker was dubbed “an agent of Pakistan” before being thrashed.
Agnivesh was quoted by a national news channel as saying that he was both surprised and shocked. “I am against any sort of violence. I am known as a peace-loving person. I don’t know why I was attacked,” he told the channel.
In its classic double-speak, the state BJP ‘ condemned’ the attack, but in the same breath held the organisers responsible. “There is no place for violence in a democracy. But, the conclave hosts should take responsibility because they didn’t apprise (the administration) of (Agnivesh’s) visit,” said Pratul Shahdeo, the state BJP spokesperson. No statement about checking up on his youth workers and punishing them for terrorizing and beating up the Hindu leader and internationally known human and social rights activist.
Activists have likened the attack to the series of mob lynching reported in several states, including Jharkhand. The attack also comes on a day the Supreme Court has asked the Union government to frame a special law against lynching. The Centre and states have been given four weeks to file a compliance report.
Shivcharan Mahto, general secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Adim Jan-Jati Vikas Samiti that organises Damini Mahotsav, said they had sent security requisition to the district administration for the programme twice this month.
“The first letter was sent to the SDO’s office on July 5 and another on Monday. But, no security was provided,” Mahto said from Daltonganj Sadar Hospital where Agnivesh and some of his men are being treated for “grievous injuries”.
Amid national outcry against the violence, Raghubar Das has directed home secretary S.K.G. Rahate to form a two-member probe team comprising Santhal Pargana commissioner and DIG.
According to eyewitnesses, Agnivesh was attacked around 1pm as soon as he stepped out of his hotel in Pakur town to go to Littipara stadium, 30km away, for the tribal conclave.
“The BJP Yuva Morcha supporters had been sloganeering outside the hotel since morning. They called him (Agnivesh) an agent of Pakistan and asked him to go back. ‘ Bharat mein rahak hoi, Vande Mataram kahek hoi (If you want to stay in India, you should say Vande Mataram)’, the mob chorused,” said a resident.
A local journalist said the mob pounced on Agnivesh soon after he addressed newsmen at the hotel. “He was trying to get into a car when they rained blows on him. Some even hurled shoes and stones,” the scribe said, adding that tribal escorts of Agnivesh who were armed with bows and arrows might have triggered the violence.
Manohar Manav, an aide of the social activist who is among the injured, said the attack was sudden. “They were all BJP men. We tried to save Swami Agnivesh.”
Pakur SP S.P. Barnwal said they didn’t know about Agnivesh’s visit until late on Monday night. “The earlier letter mentioned a programme at Littipara and security was arranged accordingly. Around 11pm yesterday, another letter mentioned the activist would be present. We also weren’t aware that he had checked into a Pakur hotel early this (Tuesday) morning,” the SP said.
Barnwal added that an FIR had been lodged and they were trying to identify the culprits. Sources said BJP Yuva Morcha district president Prasanna Mishra was detained later in the night.
State Congress president Ajoy Kumar condemned the attack. “Such violence isn’t new here. The BJP always silences dissident voices using money or muscle power,” he said.