Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi and his mentor Swami Agnivesh are embroiled in a protracted legal battle over charges of embezzlement of money in a non-governmental organisation both worked with in the nineties.
Agnivesh had said last September that differences between the two had been resolved but documents accessed by HT show, even while the Swami was congratulating Satyarthi on his win, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was making allegations against Agnivesh in a case involving misappropriation of funds of the Mukti Pratishthan Trust.
Satyarthi was sued by fellow trustees in 1997 for allegedly embezzling huge sums of money from the Trust that worked to rehabilitate bonded labourers. The case, filed by Sheo Taj Singh, is still unresolved.
In his defence, Satyarthi alleged Agnivesh was attempting to grab the NGO’s properties that included land at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar and Gurgaon. He said Singh, an executive member of the Arya Sabha headed by Agnivesh, was a proxy for the Swami. Singh denied the allegations, saying he wasn’t ever a part of the Arya Sabha.
Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan worked closely with Agnivesh’s Bandhwa Mukti Morcha for over a decade before falling out in the nineties.
Regretting that the case had been pending for 18 years, additional district judge Kamini Lau on January 30 warned she would take coercive action to bring the case back on track. The court has fixed February 16 for further hearing.
In April 1997, the court appointed a receiver to collect details about the Mukti Pratishthan Trust’s assets and funding. In 2010, the receiver said a report couldn’t be filed without help from a chartered accountant. For almost five years, the two sides have not agreed over the appointment.
HT tried repeatedly to reach Satyarthi but was unsuccessful. His office said he was out of the country. His representative Rakesh Sengar said, “The case is in the court. We are fighting it.” Agnivesh said he was aware of the case when Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Prize but thought the timing wasn’t appropriate. “There’s no truth in Satyarthi’s case. In fact, it’s the opposite,” he told HT.