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Practitioners and Faith-Inspired Development

"What is the role of faith in your work?" This series of more than 200 interviews, made possible through the support of the Henry R. Luce Foundation, asks this fundamental question of leaders in the development field. The assembled in-depth conversations with activists and policy specialists...

A Discussion with Swami Agnivesh, Social Activist, Arya Samaj

Background: In this discussion, which took place on December 20, 2008 as part of the Berkley Center's series on Practitioners and Faith-Inspired Development, Swami Agnivesh shares how his background and personal struggles have influenced his leadership in India. His participation in the Arya Samaj movement greatly changed his perception of the India he grew up in, leading him to co-found the Arya Sabha political party to work for political change. In this interview, Swami Agvinesh discusses his early activism, his time in jail, and his vision of inspiring a grassroots approach to development in India, one that addresses the root causes of the country's problems.

Interview Conducted on December 20, 2008

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You are the champion of a myriad of causes that touch on social justice. How did you get started?

My turning point was 1968. I was 27 years old, teaching business management and law in Calcutta. I left everything there, to cross to the other side of India, to Haryana. Haryana is the state that surrounds Delhi on three sides, and it has some of India's poorest people. I decided to work among them, the poorest of the poor. I thought that if I could work there with my friends, we could bring about political change.

What was the trigger that led you to leave your life behind?

I found myself dissatisfied with my life, which then revolved around five years as a teacher at St. Xavier's College in Calcutta. This was a turbulent time in Calcutta and Bengal, as the extremist Naxalite movement was taking root there. St. Xavier's College was a Jesuit institution, and I was impressed by my dedicated colleagues, many of whom had come from abroad to work. So on one side I had the Marxist Leninists of the Naxalites, on the other the sacrificing priests. I felt a deep urge to fight against inequality and injustice. The issues at the time were land rights among other topics.

The Naxalite Movement had as its principle that revolution grows from the barrel of a gun. I found that unacceptable, but thought that an alternative could be just as important and challenging: to mobilize the masses for a non violent revolution. The Arya Samaj movement used the ideological cluster of the Vedas to galvanize masses and poor farmers and peasants. My decision to move to Haryana was largely political, and further, the Arya Samaj movement which exerted a profound influence on me was based there. The hope was that any success in Haryana could influence national politics also.

Where did you start from: what traditions did you grow up with?

I was born into an orthodox, very Brahman family, in the Telugu area in South Central India. I was actually born in Shrikakulam.Berhampur in Andhra Pradesh, a place that sits on the border of what is now Orissa. I lost my father at the age of four, and my mother moved with me and my four brothers and sisters to live with my maternal grandfather, who was the chief minister of a princely state in Madhya Pradesh, now Chhattisgarh. So I was brought up under his guidance and authority. He was a devout Brahman, who worshipped all the gods and goddesses. I was taught about them, and, though I had lots of questions, I was never allowed to ask them. As a result I grew up practicing superstitions, dogmas, and rituals as part of a religious package, even practicing untouchability.

At age 17 I passed out of what is called matriculation in India, after class 11, and went to Calcutta for college. It was there that I met the Arya Samaj movement, and it shook me from my foundations, showing me a completely new world view. I was encouraged at every step of the way to ask more questions, about gods, about the caste system, and about many dimensions of sectarian religion. The approach was very rational and very progressive, very egalitarian, overall a very spiritual ideology, which I embraced. Like a new convert, I became quite a zealot, with a will to propagate, as I saw it as a good ideology, and what the world needed.

During this period, I was teaching in a Jesuit college, St. Xavier's, a premier institution. I came to reflect on how my colleagues, many of whom were priests who had come from Belgium, gave up a life of comfort to come to India, taking on challenges and leading an austere life as missionaries. Though I did not like their religion or religiosity, I felt challenged to ask what my own challenge was, what was my own mission. With my colleagues we debated intensively the root causes of poverty, inequality, and social injustice. We were keenly aware of the Naxalite movement raging around us, and the Maoist movement in China. This was also the era of the Vietnam War and we were very conscious of it.

So all of this led me to leave my life as it was then behind me and go to the other side of India, to work with the very poor in rural areas.

Did you join the Arya Samaj movement? What did that involve?

I joined the Arya Samaj movement in the novitiate, as a naishthick brahmachari. As a first step, I gave up my clothes, suits, and have worn orange ever since. I confirmed myself as a celibate in the Arya Samaj tradition. I and my colleagues there did everything together for a two year period, studying, going barefoot, walking long distances, sleeping on floors, eating no salt, living with the bare minimum of clothes. I wanted to test myself first, to see if I could stand the rigors of the discipline and struggle we had undertaken.

What did you do once you reached Haryana?

The next steps of action came naturally. In each village as we walked through Haryana we were called upon to give a speech, as the people wanted to hear from us. We talked to them about their own problems, and the response would be tremendous; this was very encouraging. There was nothing really new in what was said. They just wanted to tell us about their situation, and we would discuss why circumstances were the way they were.

The first real breakthrough in our approach was a long march that we organized in October,1968, across Haryana (I had left Calcutta on March 25 that year). There were 200 of us, all young men, no women, and we walked from village to village. We started at an ancient battlefield with great spiritual significance in Kurukshetra, where Krishna spoke the Srimad Baghwad Gita. We marched from there to the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi, for 18 days, always barefoot, crisscrossing the rural hinterland of Haryana. Our aim was to understand and have a dialogue with the rural masses. We wanted to know them closely, and to stir hope in their minds that change is possible.

As we embarked, we had some rough ideas but they were not so deep. As we went from one place to another, the rural people, with all their poverty and ignorance, were very responsive. They welcomed us, prepared food for 200 at short notice, and gave us the best hospitality they could offer, even though we were unknown young people. Each day we moved to a new village for our night camp. The word would go ahead, and when we arrived everyone was prepared, and the people would gather to welcome us, mothering us. We were thrilled by this, as we had seen nothing like this response, this upsurge. The people saw hope in this group of educated young men, with their message of hope.

The rural women especially showed us how they understood the problems of development. Invariably at every village the women would tell us that the liquor shop newly set up by government was the biggest source of domestic violence and poisoned the village atmosphere and family peace. These liquor shops were small buildings, like a shack set on the outskirts of each village, but they saw it as the source of all their troubles. It was as if all was well and peaceful before the shop came. They pointed to it as the source of evil. As we marched, this emerged as a common issue, and there was a coalescence around an anti liquor movement.

We remembered that opposing liquor was part of India's struggle for freedom under Gandhiji. The Congress Party in its pre-independence form had promised that as soon as the nation became independent, they would do away with liquor and other ills. It was enshrined in the new constitution. And yet when it came to reality, things were very different. In order to raise funds for development, each state government in India, after Independence, tapped alcohol as its biggest single source of revenue, to the detriment of the masses in general and women in particular. So what we learned was that here, in a democracy that was sending people as representatives to serve them, those representatives thought that the best way to build roads and bring electricity was to raise money by auctioning liquor shops. And this was not just causing violence and accidents; it was distorting the whole value system. So we saw how the hiatus and gap in a democracy grew between the people and the representatives of the people, once they were elected and sent as representatives to form a government. They took on a way of thinking that becomes entirely different. They relied on the police and on force and did not respect the wishes of the people. They no longer felt like going back. This separation is a fundamental contradiction in democracy.

What was the outcome of the March and where was your movement leading?

The 1968 Haryana March was a great success in building confidence. And the Government response came quickly and heavily. We were arrested, on false charges, handcuffed, paraded in the marketplaces. The message was that we should stop what we were doing. Yet as we were giving the message against liquor, the elders and seniors were giving their interpretation that alcohol was not only bad for the body, it was bad for the mind. They saw it increasingly as an ethical and moral issue and that dimension came to the forefront in the general discourse. But for us, we saw above all the economic angle and it seemed a source of exploitation, that served to keep the poor poor, to keep them fighting amongst themselves, keeping them unorganized, and the state was able to take the income that they generated this way. We realized, as the picture on the role of alcohol was taking shape, that a very similar pattern had taken place in China during the Opium War. The British used opium to subjugate the people, and we saw that the whole thing smacked of a colonial way of exploitation, that was now being used by the independent government.

Mrs. Gandhi became Prime Minister around this time. During this period, we were sleeping and eating in farmers' houses, very small places, and there was hardly enough room, little to eat, and many hardships. We were keenly aware of the meaning of poverty. Mrs. Gandhi's father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a politician but also a statesman, and was highly respected, and he had talked about a socialistic pattern of society. Mrs. Gandhi went further and called for socialism. She curtailed the privy purses of erstwhile princes and kings and nationalized the banks. So this was encouraging to us. So on one side we were encouraged that through political power we could bring about radical changes. But at the same time we saw so much corruption, and were increasingly aware of the bureaucratic aspects of socialism and its pitfalls.

Mrs. Gandhi announced that in order to help farmers her government would remove the middlemen in the food grain trade, so that the government would buy food grains directly from farmers. Everyone was happy, including ourselves, as the middlemen were eating away the farmers' small margin of profit. This was also a caste phenomenon also, and contributed to producing a class of farmers of lower caste, while the traders were a little higher caste. Cleverly the higher caste people would take away profits. The farmers in the Haryana region were called jats and the traders and trading communities were bania.. So there was already considerable voicing of peoples' anger against capitalism. Thus Mrs. Gandhi's announcement was welcomed as a step against exploitation, and towards socialism.

But when we asked the farmers how much they would gain, we found that they could not answer. The new price announced for a quintal of wheat (100 kg) was 76 rupees and at first the farmers were pleased. But we decided to do a bit of cost accounting. We went around to some of the agricultural colleges, talked to professors and leading farmers, and set out to calculate the bare costs of production. We found that this was about 112 rupees, leaving really only the husks as the farmers' profits. We went to the government and told them that if they were serious about the upliftment of the poor, they must give them at least the bare minimum cost of production. The government was furious and we were threatened with arrest. They said we had no business instigating the farmers. But we were undeterred and went on to mobilize the farmers in a big way. We read out the cost figures we had calculated, and added the cost of land, interest, and other standard business costs. When 20,000 40,000 farmers listened to our story, we could see them crying. They had never thought about the cost of production, and came to realize that the middlemen had taken even less than the “benevolent” government was now taking, leaving them with the barest minimum. No wonder they were poor, and their land was mortgaged. It all belonged to the banks.

In that part of India the word for farmer is kisan, and even the smallest farmers use the word proudly. The landholders are the zamin dar. Farmers liked to call themselves landlords, however. But they came to realize that they were heavily indebted and in very bad condition. We used many means, including songs and plays, to mobilize and galvanize them. This was the first farmers' movement in independent India.

After the announcement of its plans, the government failed to buy up produce and in short order India was passing through a food crisis. This harked back to an earlier period in the 1960s when American PL80 was used as a device to ensure that the poor did not die of starvation. We were very critical of the American politics behind it.

The government therefore embarked around this period on the Green Revolution, which was at its height in 1968-7. It was seen as a great liberating force, addressing the problem of age old famine and starvation and moving India towards self sufficiency. Everyone was so euphoric. But we could establish a direct link between the indebtedness of farmers and the changes linked to the Green Revolution, which required farmers, as they grew more crops, to use more fertilizer and give up their traditional implements, changing bullocks for tractors, and new equipment. To do so they had to borrow from the banks. Special banks were set up to lend money, and the result was that much land was mortgaged to the banks. The more production increased, the more use of money increased, but it did not rest in the hands of the farmers. No sooner did the men get money in their hands than they went to squander it on alcohol. This destroyed family peace and drove them deeper into debt.

Thus, prosperity and adversity went hand in hand. We could see clearly in this dichotomy the distance between ruler and ruled, government and governed. As we talked to farmers, many such issues came up. And every time we tried to organize, using peaceful, nonviolent Gandhian methods, the government would come down heavily, and arrest us, then torture us in jail. They found our activities a threat to their power.

How much time did you spend in jail?

I was in jail 11 times in the period leading up to 1975, including 14 months during the Emergency. And during the period leading up to the Emergency, I had to go underground several times, to change my clothes, and my name.

As we moved more actively to voice the problems we saw, we realized that it was ultimately political power which is the answer. That was the only way to bring change. At that time, the whole of India was under the monopoly of the Congress Party, which ruled all states as well as the whole country. Mrs. Gandhi was the Prime Minister, daughter of a Prime Minister, who had been groomed for power and who was grooming her son Sanjay (he died in an airplane crash). It was a dynasty in the name of democracy. The perversions were as present among the capitalists as among the socialists. What we saw were corrupt regimes, as inefficient corrupt bureaucracies thrived. Politicians would use all the tricks of politics to stay in power. They used the communal card also, and the war to create an independent Bangladesh was another pretext for cracking down.

We concluded that we had to form ourselves into a political party. So on the day I was formally initiated, together with my closest friend Swami Indravesh, as a full member of Arya Samaj, we launched our party. It was the 7th of April, 1970, and there was a huge gathering, with 7000 people. We were anointed as full fledged swamis, and from the same platform we announced the launching of our new political party.

Its ideology could be summed up as Vedic socialism, or a spiritual socialism. It was critical of capitalism, and also of state socialism, and communism, of China and the Soviet Union. So for many of our media friends it was difficult to place where we stood & right or left? We used this background with the overall texture of the Vedas, Upanisads, the Gita, and our ancient heritage, and sought by this means to revive traditional values. We were asking for a simpler life style, Gandhian values, and a spiritual, political ideology. It looked Marxist, but the tools were non violent, always peaceful. We would use no foul word against our enemies or the government. The result was electrifying; people saw young men in robes with poor farmers, mobilizing thousands and thousands of farmers. And whenever elections were contested, the governments had to rig elections to defeat us.

The heyday of our activism was 1973-74. We were young, and did not know much about politics. We minced no words and we were determined to fight for causes. The party was spearheaded by Arya Samaj, and it supported Muslims, Sikhs, people of different castes, and any other group that was pushed aside.

We were so well known that one of India's great leaders after Gandhi, Jaya Prakash Narayan, invited me to visit him at his residence, in Patna. He wanted me to lead the Haryana chapter of Total Revolution, a movement which he was spearheading throughout the country. It was a great honor to be invited by such a great man, at a time when his movement had captured the imagination of people, especially youth, hundreds of thousands of them. In two and a half hours of conversation with him, he told me about serious differences with the general approach to politics at the time. His number one demand was to end corruption in public life. We, however, saw the root of all corruption as ownership of private property, thus the means of production. So we had a deep analytic faith that unless you could do away with this, and come to social ownership as opposed to state ownership, there was no way to stamp out corruption. We derived our arguments from the Vedas and its value system. Towards the end of our discussion, he agreed and showed me some of his own writings to show how in fact we agreed on so much, even though our strategies would appear to be very different. He could not state these things as we did. The end result was that, though we seemed to have started from different places, I agreed to join his movement and we were soon afterwards given leadership roles in it.

And then Mrs. Gandhi clamped the Emergency on the country, and soon 175,000 people were in jail. My 14 months in jail was a great opportunity. We were held under a special provision called MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) which meant no charge, no charge sheet, no trial, no nothing over the whole period.

Inside jail, I read a great deal, especially Gandhi. I was fascinated by all the ideas I found in his works, and they had a great influence on me. They gave me new insights into the teachings of Swami Dyananda, the founder of Arya Samaj, and new interpretations of the Vedas. Both Gandhi and Swami Dyananda were born very close to each other, in the State of Gujarat, about 100 km apart. Swami Dyananda was born in 1824 and poisoned to death in1883, at the age of 59. Gandhi was born in 1869, and assassinated in 1948. I noted lots of similarities in their overall approach. Gandhi symbolized value based politics and the importance of providing the alternative of a spiritual paradigm for development, as opposed to the lopsided materialistic, consumeristic model of development. He exemplified nonviolence as a way of life, and gave a non-exploitative critique of industrialization as the model of development. It rhymed so well with Dyananda's teachings.

How were you able to get books in jail? What were your circumstances there?

We were allowed to read. With a few others, out of the 175,000 people who were held during the Emergency, my friends and I were picked up and treated specially, as we were considered to be subversive even in jail. We were kept apart at the central jail at Ambala. One of my fellow prisoners was a great fan of Gandhi. During the British times, he was an ordinary policeman; he was accused by the British of misdoings, and went into hiding. While he was underground, he went to ask advice of Gandhi, who said he could help only if he surrendered. He did so and went to jail. He came out only around the time of Independence, and was a devout follower of Gandhi, as well as a political activist. When he was held during the Emergency, he brought a trunkload of Gandhiji's books with him and shared them within out group. We had lively debates. I was particularly fascinated by the stories of Gandhiji in South Africa as well as India. In South Africa, when he was in prison, he insisted on cleaning the stinking prison toilets, the dry latrines. I decided to follow his example. The idea was that if you found truth in something you should experiment with it, live the experience. Gandhi's approach was a very practical one. The first days I found it impossible, but I persisted. The prison toilets were cleaned, in a fashion, by a man who came in from outside, a member of one of the lowest orders of a scavenger caste, who were looked down on by everyone. I invited him to sit in my chakki, or cell, and took his implements and went off to clean. The first day I was literally cleaning heaps of shit. It produced a great transformation inside me, starting with many questions: “Why I am doing this?” But I persisted, for months altogether.

When I came out of prison, and was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Haryana and later Minister Education, I was given the honor one day to hoist the Indian tricolor flag on August 15, India's National Day. This was a great event. As the preparations proceeded, I told them that before I was greeted by the state officials at the headquarters, to hoist the flag, I would have done my cleaning of the public toilets, in full public view. My thought was that what I had done inside the jail where no one could see me, would have little impact, and there were those who had been doing this for generations, the bungi, they were called, despised for generations as they cleaned the public toilets. So to the great surprise of all, as the 15th of August was celebrated as Independence Day, I went to the poorest of the poor, cleaning the public toilets and drains. I continued to do it every year. This was one illustration of how the impact of Gandhi on me increased.

I had three lodestars during this period: Gandhi, Marx, and Swami Dyananda, each with complementary but different social messages.

I stayed only three and a half months in jail, then, but when we came out, each day was a battle against our own government, which did the opposite of what they had been mandated to do by the electorate, and what they had promised in their electoral manifesto.

Then things changed. From 1977-82, for six years, I was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Haryana State, which then had a population of about 26 million. And I served briefly as Minister of Education. But even then were protesting every day, and I found myself more and more upset with the system. The political process was traumatic. There was a whole class of politicians, who belonged to same party, the Janetta party, and Narayan's Movement of Total Revolution. No sooner were these politicians in their seats of power, than they discarded Narayan, and left him thrown aside, languishing on his deathbed. JP Narayan, a man of great compassion, died a very sad death, very much like Gandhi.

What was the parallel with Gandhi's final years?

Before independence, Gandhi was the uncrowned king of India. But the moment independence happened and the transfer of power took place, his own closest disciple, Nerhu joined the government. Gandhi was annoyed and did not like this. He had argued that his followers should not join the government but should remain with the people, and form a People's Council. Thus the people would continue to have power. Democracy, he argued, could only work if this happened, when the Vedas served as the moral authority, in cooperation with the state authority, Moral authority had to stay outside the govennment, led by honest, upright, dedicated leaders. Some could be in government, for example as Prime Minister, but the power of the people would be a countervailing force on the powers that be. It was a great idea, but no one listened, and Gandhiji was considered to be a madman. He went to cry in the wilderness, and died a sad death, at a time when his country was being partitioned, and there was violence everywhere. On the day of independence, as the tricolor flag of India was hoisted on the Red Fort, everyone looked for Gandhi, but he was nowhere near Delhi. He was far away near what is now Bangladesh, in a small remote village, Noakhali. There he was cleaning the village streets with a little broom, teaching cleanliness, and protesting against the mad Hindu Muslim violence. He was so disenchanted with all that had happened. Those he had trusted most had left him, and had gone to take over power. The same thing had happened to JP Narayan.

What was your time in power like?

My stint as Minister of Education in Haryana was very brief, and the day I protested against my own government, I was forced to resign.

Our government had been put in power with the specific mandate of restoring civil liberties that had been taken away under Mrs. Gandhi: access to the courts, everything. What existed was a dictatorship. We were brought to power to restore civil rights. But the Haryana Chief Minister, Bhajan Lal, went out of his way to appease the industrialists of an industrial township, Faridabad near the Delhi border. He imposed Section 144, in the town for a whole year. This was a law that the British had passed and used primarily when they wanted to disperse a crowd, and it provided that not more than five people could assemble. They had used it for a day or two at a time. The law was still on the books. But our own gentlemen imposed it for a whole year, so working people would never be able to conduct gate meetings, raise demands or whatever. When finally, on my persuasion, labor leaders took to a procession, the police encountered them, fired on them and shot dead 12 factory workers, in cold blood. I protested in a cabinet meeting and was told to keep quiet, because that was not my portfolio. But the Home Minister, instead of ordering a judicial inquiry, ordered a magisterial inquiry, which in effect would be carried out by the same people who had ordered the firing. It was an eyewash. From Chandigarh, the Haryana capital, I went to Delhi, called a press conference, and called for a judicial inquiry against my own government. This was unheard of, and everyone in my party was very upset. But I knew I was doing the right thing, and following my conscience. It was clear, however, that I could not remain as Minister and had to resign. Then, they got my resignation letter and panicked and asked me to issue a one line statement that simply said that the statements attributed to me were not correct. This was a normal way that politicians got away with things. But I said that every word was correct and so I had no alternative but to resign. Within three months and eight days I quit my ministerial position.

I decided to go full steam with the great and fascinating idea of Gandhi that had inspired me during my jail term. I was convinced that among the least among the last was the heart of what development was about. This should form the bedrock of development. That means development should start from the bottom upwards, not trickle down.

So from then on I plunged into organizing for the bonded labor issue, the victims of modern day slavery, in and around Delhi.

Can you explain a bit about the different organizations you work with and lead?

Bandhua Mukti Morcha (BMM) was formed in 1981 and is the movement to end bonded labor and to rescue those who are caught in bonded labor. It continues its work, both directly to rescue and relaunch those caught in debt bondage, especially children, and to advocate for changes that would end the system. We work especially among the stone quarries but also in other places including carpet manufacturing sites. We are slowly seeing progress in cutting down on these practices.

We are also working against female feoticide. It is a grave problem & in the 1991 census, there were 25 million girls “missing” and in 2001, 35 million. We have organized marches against it to raise awareness, and press for policy action. There are some encouraging signs that the pattern is reversing, and I am hopeful that the 2011 census will show a reverse in the trends to abort and neglect girls. The key is to go beyond feoticide and change the circumstances that lead parents to favor boys, starting with dowry and prejudice against women on many fronts.

There's a new interfaith movement in India. What form is it taking?

Our movement, which is gaining much strength, is Sarva Dharma Sansad, which means Parliament of all the religions. It includes members from all the many religions present in India: Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Baha'I, Zoarastrian, Jains, and others. We have determined that we will not be a goody goody, all talk interfaith movement, but will focus on action on the main social issues facing India. We have agreed on a seven point plan of action. The points are: 1. Bring an end to the caste system in all the many manifestations which are still present 2. Work for communal harmony 3. Work for gender equality, starting with female foeticide but going beyond that to the root causes, starting with the practice of dowry 4. Fighting against alcohol, drugs, and tobacco 5. Bringing reason to religion 6. Fighting corruption 7. Fighting against inhuman exploitation, including animal slaughter.

You have faced a tension between your international and Indian roles. You served, for example, as Chairperson of the United Nations Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (1994- 2004), the International Peace Council, and the International Niwano Peace Prize Committee. You have received recognition for this work.

My priority is to deepen my work in India and to make a difference at the grass roots. That means leaving aside the opportunities at the international level.

Are you optimistic about what is happening in India?

In many ways it is political business as usual. However, there are some encouraging signs. Two recent measures can make a large difference. The first is the right to employment, which for the first time translates the ideal so often stated of ensuring a decent life into reality. The second is the right to information, which opens up government information to public scrutiny. Another important measure that hopefully will be passed soon is the right to education, making education free and compulsory for ages 6-14. We wanted the age to extend to 18 but that will not happen for a time.Our relations with the government are friendly, but they do tend to ignore us most of the time.

What is the significance of the title Swami?

Swami means master, not of others but of oneself. At one level, anyone can be a swami. The ideal for life is to break it into four stages, of 25 years each. The first is learning, to build self. The second is to build family and career, the time of marriage and children and job. The third is to build towards a more selfless contribution to society. And the fourth is to withdraw entirely from society and to be a soldier of truth.

Is Arya Samaj an Indian organization?

No, it is worldwide, now 135 years old. It means noble righteousness. Arya Samaj is active in many parts of the world, including Guyana, Surinam, and Trinidad and Tobago. The World Council of Arya Samaj is a global institution.

What do you see as the significance of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks?

They were a cruel terrorist assault. India's Muslim population is rallying against such acts, with hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating. And the interfaith movement is rallying strongly against terrorism and the attacks. There is a need to join hands in a big way to counter these dangerous trends. Non-violence must be the answer. And we need to establish and work to counter the root problems that are behind hostility and tension.
Presence on WWW: 1. 2. 3. 4.