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A life spent fighting bonded labour ends

NEW DELHI: Renowned social activist, Arya Samaj stalwart and former politician Swami Agnivesh passed away at 80 at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences in Delhi on Friday. He was suffering from liver cirrhosis.
His role as the face of the movement against bonded labour and someone who brought the issue in focus in the 1980s is what Swami Agnivesh will be remembered for most. In 1981, he founded the Bandhua Mukti Morcha which continues to raise issues surrounding bonded labour in India. He was the chairman of the Morcha. tnn
Agnivesh headed UN fund against slavery
Over the years, BMM estimates to have secured the release of more than 1,72,000 bonded labourers. Renowned internationally, Swami Agnivesh was thrice elected as chairperson of the UN Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. Recognition for his work came in the form of several national and international awards, including the Anti-Slavery International Award in London, 1990, the Freedom and Human Rights Award in Berne, 1994, the Rajiv Gandhi Award for Communal Harmony, and the Right Livelihood Award from Sweden, 2004.
Swami Agnivesh was born Vepa Shyam Rao on September 21, 1939, in Andhra Pradesh. He gained degrees in law and commerce, became a lecturer at St Xavier’s College in Kolkata.In his student days, he gravitated towards the Arya Samaj.
He finally plunged into political and social activism, leaving Kolkata for Haryana. In 1968, he became a full-time worker at the Arya Samaj, and two years later, embraced sanyas and became Swami Agnivesh. He also founded a political party, the Arya Sabha. His political life started with the struggle for Haryana’s fair share as it was emerging as a state separated from Punjab.

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