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Sri Sri Ravishankar welcomed with ‘azadi’ slogans, faces protests in Kashmir

Sri Sri, the Art of Living founder said he had been invited by ‘some well-meaning people of the Valley’ to speak at the ‘Paigham-e-Mohabbat’ (Message of Love) function

india Updated: Mar 10, 2018 22:47 IST
Ashiq hussain
Ashiq hussain
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,Art of Living,Kashmir
Founder Art of Living Sri Sri Ravi Shankar leave after a programme 'Paigham-e Mohabbat' at SKICC on the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar,india on March 10, 2018.(HT Photo)

Angry protesters, some shouting pro Azadi slogans forced spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to cut short his speech at a ‘peace conference’ here on Saturday.

Sri Sri, the Art of Living founder said he had been invited by ‘some well-meaning people of the Valley’ to speak at the ‘Paigham-e-Mohabbat’ (Message of Love) function, organised on the banks of the Dal Lake for ‘peace and trust building’. He did not identify who those people were.

Thousands of people, including youngsters and women, had gathered for the function in the lawn of Sheri Kashmir International Convention Centre before it became apparent that most of them had been lured to attend the function on some pretext or the other.

Just six minutes into his speech, people started leaving in droves and some of them shouted pro Azadi slogans.

“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,” Sri Sri said minutes before the commotion started at the back.

The spiritual leader cut short his speech and the guests on the dais left in a hurry. Groups of people HT talked to said that they were brought into the function by “deceit”.

A group of cricketers from Pattan in north Kashmir said that they were told that they would be given sporting kits by an NGO. “We were lured to come here for cricketing kits. Don’t we know who this Ravi Shankar is? If our neighbors and friends come to know we had come here, it would be so embarrassing. Everybody knows how these things are politicized,” a pharmacy student said.

Khushi Mohammad, an elderly man from the frontier district of Kupwara some 100 km from Srinagar, had left his home at 7 in the morning with the hope of meeting a Gujjar leader who would 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,” said Mohammad.

A group of ASHA workers from central district of Budgam said that they were told that their services would be regularized.

Later, Sri Sri addressed a press conference but was opaque on the charges that people were invited by deceit at the ‘peace conference’.

“I have no idea. I have come on their invitation. I am going to talk to them in small groups. There is lot of pain I have come here to listen to their issues,” he said.

He again refused to say on whose invitation he had come to Srinagar.

Later, a businessman named Sheikh Imran who also has a little known party by the name of JK Peoples’ Alliance, said that he along with a group of people had invited Sri Sri to the function. Imran was present on the dais and also addressed people before Sri Sri’s speech.

“People have issues and nobody was there to hear them so we invited somebody who is spiritual and has say at national and international level,” Imran said.

He denied that people were fooled into coming to the event. He said that people were told that there would be ‘advocacy of their problems’. He said that since the turnout was huge that is why there were some problems.

Sri Sri has been in the news of late, especially after his attempts for an out of the court settlement in Ram Janamabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit. He had recently drawn criticism over his reported comments that any delay in resolving the dispute would lead to civil war in India.

First Published: Mar 10, 2018 22:45 IST