File photo: Sri Sri Ravishankar said interfaith dialogue is required in Kashmir Photograph:( Zee News Network )
In an exclusive interview with WION Sri Sri Ravishankar said that India has changed after Modi government came to power. Speaking on issues ranging from cow vigilantism to the NGT controversy, Sr Sri said that PM Modi has brought in the spirit of positive and inclusive nationalism.
Read the full interview:
Q: Why is AOL refusing to pay the fine imposed by the NGT?
A: We have already paid the fine. We have paid after protesting against it as our side of the argument was never heard. If you violate any law then it is fine. Court says that it is compensation and not a fine. It is a deposit and not a fine.
Q: The matter will go to the Supreme Court?
A: Hearing has not happened. I hope justice would prevail.
Q: Does it undermine the work which AOL has undertaken?
A: Not at all. We were the one which worked for mere dilli mere Yamuna. There were 10,000 volunteers who cleaned the Yamuna river. We would be the last people to pollute it. There are vested interests who want to rake up this issue.
Q: Who are these vested interests?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Do you feel that you got targeted because you supported certain political personalities who had strong views on politics?
A: Maybe but one thing for is sure that there are jealous people and they felt that we could take on the world. It was cultural Olympics. Naturally, some people wanted to stop it. Yamuna wasn’t the concern. They wanted to sabotage the programme which they couldn’t do in the end.
Q: Why do you say that?
A: They tried all means and kept calling up international dignitaries that they shouldn’t come. They sent a petition to the Prime Minister and the President asking them not to come. If they were so serious about Yamuna, just 100 meters from there encroachment exists and toxic material is being injected in the river. They weren’t happy with the idea of the event.
Q: Was it that your views and ideas were different and didn’t jell with the pre-existing viewpoint?
A: There are 2500 religious leaders from all faiths who were present. India is proud of it. Today we are getting calls from other countries to organise the event. In the four days, Delhi’s GDP grew by 40 per cent and 13 per cent tourists arrived that month. A lot of good things happened. There is a saying in Sanskrit that if you envision something big then hurdles will come up but we faced them all with great spirit and enthusiasm.
Q: You are saying that these were little obstacles?
Q: The Modi government is completing three years in power. How do you evaluate the government?
A: This government (BJP) has boosted the image of the country everywhere in the world. People are taking notice of the country. There is tremendous faith in the people. There aren’t many scams and there is a nationalistic spirit which PM has re-enforced in the country which has appealed to the youth of the country.
Q: But if you look at the political narrative, nationalism has divided the political narrative...
A: Nationalism doesn’t mean that you question other people’s patriotism. Religion and nationalism are different and shouldn’t be mixed with religion. People of all faith are patriotic to this country. People who do anti-social activities don’t belong to one religion.
Nationalism is not looked down in any country be it the US or any other country. Patriotism is held very high. Somehow in India for a couple of decades, if you are patriotic, the feeling is that you are sidelining people which is not correct and it should be done away with...
Q: Has PM Modi tried to correct it?
A: Yes, he has tried to correct it. He brought in the spirit of positive and inclusive nationalism.
Q: How do you define positive nationalism?
A: It includes all communities. All community people are coming together...
Q: AOL was very active in 2014, has Modi made a difference in the North-East?
A: We have worked with ULFA and other militants in the North-East. They were persuaded by us to join the mainstream. You should work at multiple levels. Inner wounds need to be healed. When it happens, healing takes place. The aim is to have economic growth...
Q: Were you able to achieve this aim?
A: We could do it and ensured that surrendered militants get re-integrated into society. We brought some back to the ashram too.
Q: You are speaking about peace but India is seeing a lot of vigilantism violence and identity politics...
A: This is not a new situation and an issue and it has been there for ages. Sepoy mutiny happened over identification of two animals. I would prefer the vigilantes to be vigilant against crime rather than over cows. There is so much crime against society and they should be vigilant against them. This effort is required. The police force alone cannot bring peace in society. The society must wake-up.
Q: Then how do you ensure that in the name of cows people don’t target each other?
A: These are few incidents in a big country like India. It should be treated like a crime and not as a cultural onslaught of one culture against the other. It is only a crime and shouldn’t be seen as onslaught approved by the majority.
Q: So, you are saying that this projection is worrying?
Q: What is happening in Kashmir?
A: It really pains me. I have been working with them for a long time. It really pains me. The youth is suffering. There is no leadership for them in the valley. The media in the valley is controlled by vested interests. It brings passion in them to go and rebel and destroy and it is being promoted and that is unfortunate. The youth should also feel integrated with the rest. The targeting of the youth creates a backlash in the valley. We have said that if someone targets you then you should contact us. From a narrow regional vision to a global vision would be helpful.
Q: Can the problem of violence be resolved with political actors or does it require interfaith dialogue?
A: Interfaith dialogue is required as religious leaders do have space in people’s life. They impact the people either in a positive or negative way.
Q: Have you tried inter-faith dialogue when it comes to Kashmir?
A: Yes, we have done that but we need to do it more.
Q: How do you do it? India has very aggressive and a disturbed neighbourhood?
A: The world over there is about extremism and we need to understand it. We have not invested in peace education either in schools or at home. We have not tackled issues of anger or greed. If the world can invest one per cent of what they invest in defence in peace education the world can be a much better place.
Q: India also has its own issue like Ayodhya. Should the temple issue be decided by consensus or should it be a result of judicial pronouncement?
A: Way back in 2003 I gave a proposal that it cannot be a matter for the court. It can be a gesture to each other. It can become a measure of goodwill. There are vested interests everywhere who block such initiatives. There can be give-and-take or else it will continue to be a thorn and a security challenge.
Q: Are you saying that judicial decision instead of closing the issue can become a festering wound?
A: In this one would lose the opportunity to lose goodwill to each other. But if it comes from the heart then it will become an opportunity to heal wounds.
Q: How come you have not been able to realise this opportunity in India?
A: Well, there were many political interferences and many wanted to take political mileage and time is right and I still have hope...
Q: Can ever spirituality be divorced from politics?
A: It cannot be divorced from anything. You need spirituality in everything. It uplifts the spirit. You need it in sports also. It is about basic ethics of life and how can politics be devoid of ethics.
Q: You have spoken on women issues in the past. Today there is a raging debate on triple talaq. Do you think it requires reform?
A: Reforms are required. Human rights should be the first thing to be attended to, women have rights. They have equal rights and these reforms must be brought in. There was a time music was barred by religion but later they made music part of their life. Pictures weren’t allowed too but came into use. What is required is timely transition. The values are eternal but practices differ and they need reform when they are out of date.
Q: Then women should be allowed in Sabarimala as per your logic. Why not?
A: There was a reason why they weren’t allowed under an age period. Now it needs to be looked into, it is something religious leaders need to consider.
Q: Can there be a spiritually healthy life without renunciation?
A: Yes, it can be done. We don’t ask people to renounce the world. To be spiritual doesn’t mean that you need to leave what you do.
Q: What is the mantra?
A: Work life balance. Meditation is the key. It changes the structure of the brain. It allows selfless service activity and keeps your mind sane.
Q: You are saying that meditation would suffice?
A: Yes. Like dental hygiene, it is mental hygiene. The simple formula is clarity of mind and heart.
Q: You used the word depression? This country lacks a grid for mental health. Does your therapy work?
A: A weak mind cannot carry a strong body but a strong mind can carry a weak body. You see this happening all over the world. There are twenty-five per cent people in Japan who commit suicide. Bengaluru cities witness many suicides. It manifests due to lack of self-confidence. Self-confidence helps you by building endurance...
Watch the full interview on WION TV at 9pm (IST) on 13th May(Saturday) and 8pm on 14th May(Sunday)