Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's seminar in Srinagar ends in public indignation, participants say they were promised jobs, monetary compensation

Srinagar: Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s seminar at Srinagar for ‘promoting peace’ ended up creating discord among the participants, who left midway, accusing the organisers of cheating them. Dozens of people raised pro-freedom slogans as the police was called in to deal with the protesting crowds and help the organisers disperse them.

The seminar titled “Paigam-e-Mohabbat,” (message of peace) was held at the SKICC on the banks of the Dal Lake on Saturday amid simmering tensions in the Valley following the killing of four civilians in south Kashmir’s Shopian district last Sunday.

More than 1,000 people from different parts of the Kashmir Valley had turned up at the event, which the organisers had said will attract “thousands of peace loving” inhabitants of the tense Valley. The aim of the event was to “promote peace and communal harmony.”

The AoL had said in a statement that the spiritual guru is coming to Kashmir on the invitation of prominent citizens of the Valley. A businessman, who was recently declared a defaulter by the Jammu and Kashmir Bank, Sheikh Imran, was the key local organiser of the event. He addressed the gathering before Shankar  delivered his “message of peace”.

But as soon as Shankar started speaking from the stage, a commotion broke out among people who were seated at the back of the venue. People started running towards the back gate and a swelling crowd raised pro-freedom slogans and chanted “Musa Musa Zakir Musa.”

File image of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Reuters

File image of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Reuters

“We were told that there is a function in Srinagar and people whose sons have been killed in the last two decades will be given monetary compensation and jobs. We waited, but we had no idea this man was coming to lecture us. They promised us money and made us sit for hours without food and water. This is why we are leaving,” Mehmooda Shah, a resident of Tangmarg, whose brother was killed in 2010, said.

Mehmooda was among the dozens of agitating men and women who left the venue in haste, forcing the spiritual guru to cut short his speech. The police was called in to deal with the situation, after which the protesters dispersed peacefully.

Nazir Ahmad Bajad, a resident of Kheru in Pampore area, said one of his neighbours came to his home the previous night saying that a programme was being organised by an NGO to help the state government identify the people entitled for cash compensation under various centrally sponsored schemes meant for Gujjars and Bakerwals. When asked if he knew that Shankar was going to attend the programme, Bajad said he was not aware of it and that he came to know through a poster outside the venue.

“He told me that a list of beneficiaries has been prepared by the authorities and our name was not in it. He said we had to reach the venue and stage a protest against the government for omitting our names. I did not know that Sri Sri was going to give a lecture,” Bajad said.

Another group of boys from Budgam was promised various sports paraphernalia like training kits as part of a programme organised by an NGO. However, they were not told the name of the NGO.

“We saw the posters of Sri Sri at the venue and thought it was a different function. However, when he started giving a lecture, we could not take it and left the venue. Some persons have been making money out of people's miseries and this is an example of that,” Iqbal Hakeem, a resident of Budgam, told Firstpost.

Muzaffar Iqbal, a resident of Kupwara, said cars were arranged for their travel to Srinagar, and more than three dozen villagers had volunteered to participate in the programme. Iqbal said that some persons from the foundation told them they would be given information on how to get out of financial difficulties.

Replying to a question by Firstpost, Shankar, said that he had no idea what promises were made by local organisers and that he came to Kashmir on their invitation.

“We will meet all the people in groups,” he said, “as well as those who have been affected by the violence.” He said that the main aim of the programme was to help Kashmiris to overcome difficulties and bring peace back to the Valley.


Updated Date: Mar 10, 2018 22:23 PM

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