By Annie Banerji

India, touted as a land of mysticism and spirituality, boasts a large number of TV channels devoted to religion and faith. But for self-avowed Hindu reformist Swami Agnivesh, a former member of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare’s core team, the limelight of primetime reality TV was just too tempting.

Agnivesh sees it as an important medium to fight against exploitation, violence against women and the killing of unborn baby girls. But some have scorned a perceived publicity stunt gone too far.

Agnivesh, who controversially split from Hazare’s cadre of anti-graft warriors that mobilised millions against India’s corruption-smeared government, will on Tuesday appear on reality show Bigg Boss, India’s version of primetime hit Big Brother, in which contestants are under house arrest for three months with round-the-clock camera surveillance.

“People fight on the show but no worse than how MPs sometimes behave. It’s possible to bring about change with Bigg Boss. I’ve fought for forty-five years against exploitation in society, dowry, bride-burning, casteism, female foeticide,” the saffron-clad social activist said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“It’s been a mission of my life to strive for gender equality, I think I can teach these youngsters a thing or two,” the 72-year-old said, also denying that his participation in the show, which has a reputation of being crass and voyeuristic, will mar his virtuous image.