Sri Sri speaks on Nityananda and Naxals
The Art of Living Foundation, headed by guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, has been mired in several controversies over the last few weeks. First was the incident where AoL members claimed that a man had fired at Sri Sri's convoy and that he was the intended target. The police later claimed that it was merely a case of somebody firing at a stray dog.
Recently, a non-resident Indian, Paul P, alleged that the foundation had grabbed 15 acres of his land on Kanakapura Road near Bengaluru where the AoL ashram is situated. AoL claimed that Paul's friend Agni Sreedhar was trying to extort money by making baseless charges against the organisation.
In an interview with rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, the jetsetting spiritual guru speaks about the land-grabbing allegations, the Swami Nityananda sex scandal and his interaction with Naxal leaders.
The Naxal menace has become uncontrollable. During your interactions with Naxal leaders, what did you feel was their present mindset?
Their sole aim is to capture power at the Centre. Their ideology is anti-democratic and anti-imperialistic. Their grievances are about the system's corruption, exploitation and injustice. Yet, they are hugely motivated. In fact, India needs such youth to wipe out the corruption and injustice in our system. Nevertheless, I am completely against their modus operandi of violence.
What do the Naxals want from the Indian government?
They just want to come to power. According to them, people can put them on a pedestal and bring them down also. So they want to come to power using strength and force.
Image: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
'Violence cannot be quelled by violence'
Is the Indian government dealing with this issue in the right manner?
I am not part of their decision-making, assessment or plan of action. So I don't know the strategy of the Indian government.
Do you think use of force will help solve this problem?
I have always said that violence cannot be quelled by violence. Also, the killing of hundreds of Central Reserve Police Force jawans by the Naxals has only earned them the wrath and condemnation of even the poorest of the poor.
There have been some controversies surrounding the ashram recently, the latest one regarding the charges made by Agni Sreedhar. What do you have to say about that? Do such incidents disturb the mindset of the devotees in the ashram?
Not at all. An extortionist, when caught, will definitely try to create a non-existent issue. We had purchased the land in 2004 after publishing a public notice in newspapers. Now someone says that the seller's father owed him some money in the past and the ashram has not paid. It doesn't make sense.
Image: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with A R Rahman
Photographs: Saab Press
'My security is my love for the people'
Some members of the ashram want your security cover to be enhanced. Why is the state government not providing security?
I don't want more security. Thousands of people come from all over the world everyday to meet me. I don't want a wall between me and my devotees. My security is my love for the people.
What do you have to say about the recent controversy surrounding Swami Nityananda (who was arrested on charges of cheating and rape)? Do you think the case was stage-managed? What advice do you have for him?
I have already given my opinion. (Sri Sri had said that Swami Nithyananda had violated the rules of tantra. Only a householder is entitled to have tantric sex. Claiming to be a saint and using so many people for one's pleasure is unpardonable)
I don't want people to get prejudiced against swamis. At the same time, swamis need to be frank and forthright. If they have made a mistake, they should accept it and move on.
Image: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with former minister of state Shashi Tharoor
Photographs: Saab Pictures