“I appeal to the people to take a different attitude this time around” – His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar voices his concern on the utter failure of the incumbent government in protecting the country from Terror Attacks, the criminalization of Indian politics, and the role of India in the Sri Lankan conflict and the subcontinent. The following is a transcript of a TV interview.
Sri Sri: There is untold suffering in Sri Lanka with the Tamils. I mean its unimaginable the amount of problems and suffering they are facing today. So international community has to come to aid these ailing tamilians in Sri Lanka, ofcourse there is a large number of casualities on the the LTTE side as well as the govt side, both sides should stop hostilities, they should come to talk, to talking terms with each other. On one hand there is humanitarian crisis and on another hand, there is environmental problem, pollution that is happening. The amount of arms and ammunition being used in this conflict is so big that the land and water may need ages to come back to its pure nature.
SriLanka is such a beautiful country, its getting totally destroyed now. And we need to get our acts right. I would say India is partially responsible for what is happening in Sri Lanka. All around India we have problems, there is a circle of fire. And this fire has been created partially by our lack of action or wrong actions.
India will have to take a strong role, strong step, to lead the sub-continent and not be a pussy cat following and feeling helpless and useless with the forces all around us.
Q: But India has been supporting the Sri Lankan govt..
Sri Sri: Indian govt has to have a very clear foreign policy which I dont see its happening right now. And we are not good in negotiations, we are not good in bringing people (together), we are not good in resolving conflicts, and we need to identify these skills and we have all these skills in the country and we need to make best use of them.
Q: What is the Art of Living doing on that?
Sri Sri: Art of Living is willing to anything and everything possible to resolve the conflict. Not only in giving relief work, Art of Living is very much involved in bringing people together and resolving conflicts, whether its ULFA, or any major issue, kashmir or SriLanka, for all these bigger issues we need the support of the govt.
We need the national security advisor talking to us. and we have a national security advisor who refuses to talk to anybody! What can you do with such an attitude from the govt ! So no NGOs can play any constructive role even if they want to do it. So people who are willing to do, who are willing to work to bring people together and the resolve conflict, they simply feel helpless. So we need to change our attitude, we should develop track two diplomacy and we have to involve many NGOs, religious bodies.
Though our country is so religious, we keep religion at arm’s length and use it only when we need it ! When an election comes we use religion because thats so emotional and sentimental to people, at that time we use religion ! Suddenly people start going to temples, you have never gone to temple last 20 years. (Now) Start going to temples and mosques ! Our people should wake up today and they are intelligent. They should wake up and see this nefarious designs of some of the politicians, I wouldnt say everybody.
Criminal elements getting into the politics is not good for the country at all. With money and muscle power elections should not be won.
And I appeal to the people of India, if anybody gives you money and asks you to vote, take the money and dont vote for them.[laughter]. Another thing is Liquor, Liquor is being used like water during elections. We must put a stop, and once again I tell people, do not get into this trap of you being made unconscious and taking advantage of. You know if someone gives you a bottle of liquor and asks you to sign a document giving the rights of your home or your property will you do it ? You won’t ! In the same way be aware, When they come to you with a bottle of liquor and ask for your vote, Vote first and don’t touch the liquor.
Q: Now that the political parties are taking up the issues like terrorism and corruption, what do you have to say on this ?
Sri Sri: Terrorism is an issue. See, America had one 9/11 and thats it, after that there was no terror attack at all in America. In India, in the last one year, there have been 10 terror attacks ! What have we been doing ? What is our home ministry doing ? What is our intelligence doing ? You know the whole machinery break down is because of politicians, not that our bureucracy is not capable of handing it. They are capable.
Politicians should not interfere in national security if they cannot aid and help the national security, you should not be a hinderance to the security forces. This is exactly what has happened, last one year, 10 terror attacks have happened in India and people are not going to sit back as another event, another happening. They have to now wake up and elect proper people, elect people who are intelligent who are capable and not consider caste, religion, or any other issue while electing a person. And I appeal to the people to take a different attitude this time around. Dont vote to somebody because they are your caste, they are not going to provide you security.
Choose a correct person, a person with a clean background, with no criminal background, and who are honest and not corrupt. There are such people just vote for them. There is a sense of apathy, people stop voting, because of this crisis that every party is corrupt, so its better not to vote to anybody, that sense of apathy is even more dangerous.
So I want every single individual voter to exercise their franchise, dont sit back at home, take your friends and go and vote.
Q: After the attack in Mumbai, you had said in a public meeting, that Netas should be equanimous (sam darshi), visionary (dur drishti) and transparent (par darshi), what is that idea mean ? Do you think that Art of Living is looking towards politics ?
Sri Sri: Art of Living will always encourage youth who have a broad vision, who have a long term vision, who treat everyone equally, who has a broader sense of belongingness with everyone. And who are for truth, to come forward. We would encourage them. Not because someone belongs to a caste or religion or province. These politicians are trying to divide the society in all these small narrow idealogies.
I would expect our youth to come forward, and see a progressive country. If India is progressive, it can have an influence in all the neighboring countries, we can replicate that model that every country becomes a safe and co-operative area, the whole South Asia can be a very co-operative zone like Europe. In Europe, its many countries joined together became a European union. In the same way, if all the south asian countries come together, in a sense of co-operation, they can become one of the biggest powers in the world. They can have their voice.
They can eliminate poverty from the continent. The poverty is because of corruption. Poverty is because of lack of sense of belongingness and commitment.
Q: Sri Sri you have given a message to the people, but what about the politicians, what message would you like to give the politicians of India?
Sri Sri: You dont give messages to someone who doesnt take it [laughter].
Love will prevail and hatred will disappear from the planet.