Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was left embarrassed on Saturday when people attending his event in Srinagar raised pro-azadi slogans and many walked out minutes after the spiritual leader started his speech.
Ravi Shankar was speaking at a function titled ‘Paigham-e-Mohabbat’ (message of love) at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) lawns. While the event saw a huge gathering, people started to leave the venue soon after the godman started speaking, forcing him to cut short his speech.
Many alleged they did not know Ravi Shankar was going to speak there and were invited to the programme on different pretexts. In a video tweeted from Ravi Shankar’s Twitter handle, he claimed that the event was organised by locals but didn’t identify who those people were.
“We reached here early in the morning. We were told that we will be given jobs and some management company is giving training here”, a group of youths told PTI.
“Whenever I have come I see the pain and suffering and despite that I see the reflection of love here… I am yours and you are mine. Together we have to work for the mitigation of this pain to generate an atmosphere of peace here…Thinking about the past will make us sad. We should move on. We have that resilience and think about our future,” Ravi Shankar said minutes before the commotion started, reported Hindustan Times (HT).
Another group from central Kashmir’s Budgam district said they were told some religious scholar was to shed light on Islam. “We would not have participated in this event had we known who was to speak. We were tricked by the organisers”, they claimed.
“We were lured to come here for cricketing kits. Don’t we know who this Ravi Shankar is? If our neighbours and friends come to know we had come here, it would be so embarrassing. Everybody knows how these things are politicised,” a young student told HT.
Reports claim that many were promised a meeting with a Gujjar leader, who was supposed to announce something for the scheduled tribes. “We are poor people and they deceived us. What do they think we are? From morning we have been waiting here without any food and water thinking some Gujjar leader will come. They should have been clear,” an elderly man said.
“Many viewed it as yet another conspiracy of New Delhi to hoodwink people of Kashmir. Also, there was eruption of anger as he (Sri Sri) is seen to enjoy proximity to PM Modi and right wingers, who stereotype Kashmiris as bad people,” a local reporter told the National Herald.
While, his address had to be cut short, the spiritual leader met a group of reporters later at a hotel.
“I will be meeting several delegations, including victims of violence. I will hear them over two days. I want to create a wave of happiness and an atmosphere of love in Kashmir. I know they are in pain. Whatever we can do, we will do. We will do whatever is in our capacity to bring love and togetherness among the people here,” Greater Kashmir quoted Ravi Shankar.
When asked if he would play the role of an interlocutor between New Delhi and Kashmir, he said, “Wherever I am needed to bring happiness and peace, I am always there.”
Ravi Shankar, who is known for his proximity to the ruling BJP government, made headlines recently for his controversial comment about the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. The godman-entrepreneur claims that the contentious Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir dispute will escalate into a “civil war” unless it is resolved in favour of Hindus through an “out-of-court settlement”.
“If [the] Ram Mandir issue is not solved, we will have a Syria in India,” he said in an interview.
The dispute, he said, could be simply resolved if Muslims “give up” their claims on Ayodhya. “Muslims should give up their claim on Ayodhya as a goodwill gesture… Ayodhya is not [a] place of faith for Muslims.”