Swami Agnivesh left this world on 11th September 2020. It was really sad to hear this news. May His soul rest in peace. I only met him once on 9th August 2010 at Lalgarh in West Mednipur. It was a Monday. There was a protest gathering against the evil Left Front Government of West Bengal. In those days the CPM led Left Front was in power in Bengal. But it was quite clear that they would be kicked out of power in the next Assembly elections. Anyways, the protest gathering at Lalgarh was attended by political personalities like Mamata Banerjee and by members of the civil society like Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar. But this gathering was not under any political banner.
I still remember that day very clearly. We all organised ourselves and met at Esplanade by 8 a.m. There was a huge convoy of cars. A lot of people had gathered. There were also a lot of students from Jadavpur University and Presidency College. We left Calcutta around 9 a.m. and reached Lalgarh around 1 p.m. In the Tata Sumo in which I was travelling, there were also Joy Goswami and his wife, Pratul Mukhopadhyay and Prasun Bhowmik. Throughout the journey they discussed about everything from politics to poetry. It was really nice and enriching to be a part of that discussion. The journey to Lalgarh took almost four hours. There was an element of risk in visiting that place in Jangalmahal.
Lalgarh at that time was under Operation Greenhunt. When our car entered Lalgarh, an officer of the paramilitary forces recorded who was inside the car in his video camera. He did the same thing for all the cars. Medha Patkar was travelling in the car which was in front of us. It was a very very very hot day. It felt as if fire was coming down on us from the sky. There was a big stage. A lot of local people had gathered to hear from Mamata Banerjee, Medha Patkar, Swami Agnivesh and others. Before going on the stage, Medha Patkar first went and talked to the local people there. She also visited a few nearby mud huts. She also spoke to the journalists.
Once the stage meeting started, I was behind the stage. I met a lot of people whom I had known during the Singur - Nandigram movement. There were a lot of old people too. Some of them got sick due to the extreme heat. I escorted an unknown old man to our car and gave him water and also poured water on his head and asked him to take rest inside the car. It was tremendously hot that day. After everyone finished their speeches on the stage, the meeting got over. Swami Agnivesh came down from the stage and started interacting with the soldiers of the paramilitary forces. He asked them about their families and also asked them from where they came. He treated them as normal human beings and not as soldiers. I met him there and shook his hand. He had a calm and sweet smile on his face. He was dressed in saffron robes and also had a saffron turban on his head.
Around 4 p.m. we all started leaving the place. But we got stuck on the narrow road in between the jungles for almost two hours. There was some huge traffic mismanagement and a whole convoy of cars got stuck. Finally around 6 p.m. the convoy of cars could hit the national highway. By then it was totally dark. The journey back was tiring. But by evening it was a lot cooler. It was amazing to look up in the sky and see so many stars. We do not get to see so many stars in the Calcutta skyline because of pollution. But that evening it was really mesmerizing to see a sky full of millions of stars. Our beautiful planet Earth is so tiny when compared to the vastness of the Universe and still we stupid human beings have made this place a living hell for everybody. Finally I reached home around 10 p.m. I took a shower, had my dinner and went straight to sleep...