Former Judge, Supreme Court of India
RELIGION, SPIRITUALITY AND SOCIAL ACTION
A cyclonic sadhu, a social spiritualist, a saffron- robed sannyasi and universal visionary - these profound superlative apply aptly to a man who was born a little over three score years ago at Shakti in a princely state in Madhya Pradesh as the grandson of the diwan of that primitve part of Bharat. Shakti produced Agni, if I may metaphorically present the metamorphosis of this Andhra student, Calcutta University alumnus, lecturer and lawyer for a brief while, eventually to renounce a professional career and lucrative future and announce himself as an activist Arya Samajist, sloughing off all orthodoxy and flaming forth as Swami Agnivesh, a global firebrand for whom humanism is the burning creed, compassion the consuming passion and injustice a raging allergy, a red rag anathema and a perennial bete noire. He was also a minister in Haryana for some time but how could this antiestablishment rebel remain in office when his soul is at peace only when struggles, for causes of human justice are in his blood and bones? So we have today a universal human being for whom nothing that affects or afflicts humanity is alien. He is a karma yogi, who has only one cosmic vision - a just world order, a synthesis of the temporal and spiritual values, a concern for the human rights of the marginalized and a commitment to battle for the liberation and dignity of the have-not, handicapped and humiliated.
Swami Agnivesh is my intimate friend .......................................
HARVEST OF HATE
Gujarat Under Siege
I am happy to hail this unique book. This is the first time, perhaps, that a book is born out of an inter-religious partnership. That, in itself, is a very significant thing and a sign of promise for the future.
The substance of this book has appeared as newspaper articles in the national print media. Each one of them is instinct with the authors' passion for justice and their compassion for the victims of the Gujarat carnage. The striking power of their words and the depth of their insights result, in part, form the pilgrimage of compassion they undertook, together with several other religious leaders, to Gujarat in April 2002.
It is rarely that spiritual readers have a sustained media presence. I congratulate the authors -Swami Agnivesh and Rev. Valson Thampu- on the distinctive and substantial media presence they have built up in a few years' time. Today they are read and heard on significant issues right across the country. The contents of this book will tell you why.
I appreciate the significance of the mission that has brought together these two authors from diverse religious traditions. They stand for the dynamism of true spirituality at a time when, in the wake of mounting materialism, the practice of religion is increasingly assuming an escapist orientation. The authors spearhead a pro-active spiritual movement that refuses to be confined to religious ghettoes and places of worship. As social activists, they worship the God of justice and compassion who is in solidarity with the oppressed and the marginalized. The driving force of their spirituality is an unwavering commitment to social justice, to human dignity and the sanctity of life in its variegated forms.
The life-span of newspaper articles is becoming shorter and shorter. Journalism that only warehouses information and does not dare to look deeper than facts is bound to be ephemeral. The articles that comprise this volume are, however, of a different kind. Together they constitute a penetrating and many-layered case study, from a spiritual perspective, on the monstrous aberration that communalism is. The insights that the authors share with us through this volume are of enduring value, and the chapters can stand repeated reading.
Religion teaches us to love. We need to learn the art of loving, lest we hate each other and call it religion. Spirituality, like life, is simple. That is why children are closer to God than adults are. Spirituality is, among other things, a commitment to cherish the child of innocence in us. Every act of cruelty, especially perpetrated in the name of God, is a sword thrust through the heart of the innocence of the person or community concerned. For any religious community to countenance atrocities in the name of that religion is to be a party to the desecration of that religion. We must be spiritually vigilant, lest in our communal zeal we blaspheme the God we pretend to protect.
Journalism confines itself, mostly, to the reporting or portrayal of a crisis. But spiritually the most important thing is not the crisis as such. It is what we make of the given crisis. A massive crisis, such as continues to smolder in Gujarat, could leave us wiser or more foolish. We must ensure that the blood of the innocents split in Gujarat does not go waste. We must be wiser for this national wound, which should not have happened in the first place. It is out of such a spiritual keenness that this book is born, and I am happy to endorse it wholeheartedly.
May a culture of love and compassion spread all over this great country and take hold of the heart and minds of every person.
Shri Inder Kumar Gujral
Former Prime Minister of India