Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday condoled the demise of social activist Swami Agnivesh and hailed his contribution to inter-religious harmony in the country. Agnivesh, who was suffering from liver cirrhosis for a long time, died of multi-organ failure at a Delhi hospital on Friday. He was 80.
In her condolence message, Sonia Gandhi said all his life, Agnivesh fought with great courage and conviction for the most marginalised sections of the society. He was fearless in defending their rights and in facing those who exploited and oppressed them and terrorised the poor, often at great personal risk. "He was a most powerful and effective voice for the vulnerable and the defenceless. Swami Agnivesh's energy and faith in constructive social activism was indeed admirable and inspiring," she said.
He worked with equal dynamism to promote interfaith understanding and dialogue, non-violence, and justice for the tribal people of Chhattisgarh, caught in a violent conflict, Gandhi said. "He will be widely mourned, and India will honour the memory of this brave and noble soul," she added.
Singh, in his condolence message, said, "I am shocked and saddened to learn about the demise of the leading social activist and reformer Swami Agnivesh." "He made immense contributions in public life while working for bonded labourers and fostering inter-religious harmony in the country," the former PM said. In his death, the country has lost a crusader of the liberation of bonded labourers, he said.
Agnivesh was critically ill and admitted to the ICU at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences. He was on ventilator support since Tuesday. Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot were among those who condoled his demise on Friday.