Noisy scenes marred Art of Living founder’s peace conference in Srinagar on Saturday.
Srinagar: The founder of Art of Living (AOL), Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, had to face embarrassment and cut short his speech as several people attending the function stood up and shouted slogans in favour of “Azadi” and militants on Saturday.
Noisy scenes were witnessed in the function organised by AOL at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) as soon as Sri Sri started to speak.
Sri Sri said that he had been invited by some well-meaning people to speak at the ‘Paigam-e-Mohabbat’ (Message of Love) function.
Claiming that some well-meaning people were working silently to rectify the problems of people in Kashmir, he said that his visit was part of that non-political humanitarian initiative.
“We want peace everywhere. We want Kashmir to become Switzerland,” Sri Sri said.
The angry Kashmiri participants, however, said they had been cheated by the organisers of the function who had promised them that their bank loans would be waived at the function. Others said they had been invited for distribution of sewing machines among them.
People had come to participate in the function from different places including Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama, and Baramulla. The people were reportedly made to sit since 8 am. The participants alleged that they were not served any food or water by the organisers of the function.
“There were participants who claimed to have been told that a Muslim cleric is a speaker and a non-governmental organisation would distribute cricket kits,” a local reporter said. “Many viewed it as yet another conspiracy of New Delhi to hoodwink people of Kashmir. Also, there was popular eruption of popular anger as he (Sri Sri) is seen to enjoy proximity to (Prime Minister) Modi and right wingers, who stereotype Kashmiris as bad people.”
“[Sri Sri] has been invited by common people of Kashmir who have formed the J&K Coordination Committee. The idea behind organising this event is to find a lasting solution to the age-old Kashmir conflict,” read a statement issued by AOL, that has been published by many leading dailies of Kashmir Valley in their Saturday editions.
Sri Sri was expected to meet people from all walks of life and meet the delegations that had “urged to meet him personally”. He has been engaging with various sections of the society in Jammu & Kashmir since 2000, the statement said.
Reacting to the incident, MLA Langate, Engineer Rashid, said: “Sri Sri rightly deserved it. Can he make security forces stationed here understand Paigam-e-Mohabbat? His sermons on ‘art of living’ to Kashmiris was like rubbing salt to their injuries.”
“What happened at SKICC should open the eyes of New Delhi.”
Sri Sri was in the line of fire over his recent remark, saying if the court’s decision in the Ayodhya dispute is ‘not in favour of Hindus’, then we will have a ‘Syria-like situation’ in the country.
(With IANS inputs)