Art Of Living's International Director Darshak Hathi clarifies Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's side in the controversy over organising a cultural event on the Yamuna river bed
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who is now in the centre of a controversy over organising a cultural event on the Yamuna river bed, is not ready to budge despite court orders. Art Of Living’s International Director Darshak Hathi clarifies Sri Sri’s side in this e-mail interview. Excerpts:
Why did Art of Living choose the sensitive Yamuna plain as its venue for World Cultural Festival?
Art of Living was looking for a place which could accommodate 37,000 artists. When we applied for permissions we got clearances so we went ahead.
But it is widely reported that the proposed World Culture Festival has not received required clearances from various public authorities. As the organiser don't you think that a casual approach was taken in this regard.
All the necessary permissions have been taken.
Structures being built on Yamuna floodplains for the World Culture Festival, three-day festival organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living. File pic/AFP
The event has been in limelight for all wrong reasons. Do you agree.
We have done no wrong. Even we fail to understand why we have been made out to be in the wrong. We have interacted with respected hydro-geologist Dr.Lingaraju from Bangalore and water resource expert Prof Subramanium, who have visited Yamuna earlier, told us that it was very badly damaged and had lost its glory. It is ridiculous to allege that the event will cause any damage.
Do you think political forces are acting against you? There have been claims that ruling BJP is helping you going out of way.
The Art of Living in its 35 years has never taken any obligations from anybody. There is no question of taking any favours.
There are allegations that the mega event will disturb the ecology of Yamuna flood plains. Is there any merit in it?
There is absolutely no merit in this allegation. We too fail to understand this because Yamuna has already been damaged enough since a few years. With this event a lot more people will join us in our ongoing efforts to clean and revive Yamuna.
Have you got confirmation from Prime Minister and President for participating in the event. A section of media had reported that President has cancelled his visit.
Yes, we have received confirmation from The Prime Minister. The honorable president had confirmed but he has to attend the 150th anniversary of the Allahabad high court on the same day. He has sent us his best wishes.
What is your view on environmentalist raking up various issues days before the event? They have projected that the event will do irreversible damage to Yamuna flood plains.
We are puzzled too because as we said earlier, Yamuna has already been damaged enough since a few years. Our intention is to draw in more people who will join us in our ongoing efforts to clean and revive Yamuna.
Why didn't your organisation spend the enormous amount of money to clean Yamuna, rather than organising this mega event?
What we are doing is also to clean Yamuna. We have already spent a lot on projects like Meri Dilli Meri Yamuna. This event too was chosen to draw attention to the state if Yamuna.
Why does a spiritual organisation need to flaunt such a power list?
We have been around for 35 years and we have reached out to 370 million people in 155 countries and in the process of our service projects there have been interactions with global leaders who are happy to come to the event.
While planning the event, why didn't AOL conduct a traffic study?
We have approached the traffic police and they have a system in place.
Finally, after winning all the legal battles, when the event is all set to go, what will be the highlights of the event?
We will have a global peace meditation by Gurudev with lakhs joining us. There will be international performances like the African drummers, Argentine Tango, Kandiyan dance from Sri Lanka, Shaolin Monks. There are dances from Latin America, US and other countries. From India, there is Panthi from Chattisgarh, 1000 Ghoomar artists from Rajasthan, 1700 Kathak dancers performing under the guidance of Pt Birju maharaj.. People are coming from war torn places like Iraq, Iran, and other countries because they find peace in what India has to offer. We have religious leaders, politicians, statesmen, and business leaders who will rededicate themselves to make the planet a better place and bring much needed harmony in diversity.
How will this benefit the world?
Four things unite people- sports, music, dance and spirituality. Through music and dance, WCF will be a celebration of all cultures and bind people together. Through music and dance differences dissolve and people can come together in the spirit of celebration and unity. The WCF takes us closer to Gurudev's vision of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - One World Family.