Indians have a new dimension added to their religio-political diet. Whenever these two elements meet it is a recipe for disaster anywhere in the world. In highly devout and faithful India, the risk is even greater.
As the line between traditional religion and peace cults blurs we leave ourselves that much more vulnerable.
If, as Jammu and Kashmir goes into another convulsion of violence, our only source of hope is the Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar being the bridge over troubled waters, there is a need to worry about the efficacy of our domestic policies. When spiritual gurus become the salvation from militancy we are setting a precedent that has the potential to backfire. It is difficult for some of us to understand why slain militant leader Burhan Wani’s father has to apprise Sri Sri of the situation in Kashmir while on a medical visit. And then make a point of releasing this fact to the media.
What does the Art of Living have to do with resolving the problem? In some tangible fashion this nexus and the publicity it has received undermines the armed forces who are bearing the brunt of the hostile attacks. It also undermines the government and makes it look flat-footed while these hap-hap-happy as a lark photographic sessions would give anti-Indian forces a lot to smile about.
One would cheer Sri Sri for any spiritual or practical concept he can offer or sermonise for easing the situation in the valley. But to have him pose as the solitary saviour is questionable.
Tomorrow we might have Baba Ramdev having a confab with Nawaz Sharif. Where will it end?
The Art of Living still have not quite cleared their name entirely on the environmental issue of damaging the Yamuna floodplains.
Now, there is no call to prevent Muzaffar Wani from travelling to any part of India to seek medical treatment. That he should elect to go where Sri Sri resides is also acceptable since there might be a get-a-fix magic potion available for his ailments. And if the posed picture was a medical bulletin that would have been equally acceptable.
But to convert the meet into a categorical political statement and make that the centrepoint of the meeting is questionable. If you were creating goodwill as an emissary of the Prime Minister (recall that Narendra Modi did endorse the World Culture festival) then it should not have been publicly paraded. You cannot be a proxy for the government. If you were doing it off your own bat then you were taking a liberty and undercutting its authority and making Modi and his government look inept.
As The Art of Living entity, you may be well-intentioned, but this sense of power which was displayed does suggest that the organisation could be pushing its boundaries and walking into forbidden territory.
By the same token, one cannot see Wani needing to use Sri Sri as a conduit to pass on a message. Surely, the Modi government can establish contact with him directly and negotiate an end to the impasse.
Whoever initiated this exercise or with what aim, something just does not sit right in the way it has panned out...more as a grandstand PR event for the Art of Living which it isn't.
In the interim we also have spiritual gurus in the buff addressing the Haryana Assembly and offering gratuitous male chauvinistic advice when the House would be better off solving the problems of the state.
Wake up India. Don’t let organised piety leak into politics...there will be a big price to pay.
Through history in the England they have tried to keep the church and the state apart, ruing the times whenever they came to close.
Will no one rid me of this meddling priest?