Is SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR really serious about breaking peace in NORTHEAST?
Is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, really serious resolving the arm conflict prevailing in the Northeast region and particularly in the restive state of Manipur? This query gains significance after the spiritual leader chaired a session of the North East Indigenous People’s conference held in Guwahati’s Plush Hotel attended by representatives of cross section of Northeast based civil society bodies, student bodies, human rights activists and former armed insurgents with the general secretary of the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Assam, Anup Chetia playing a major role.
In a press conference held in Manipur in April 2016 on his second visit to the state, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar breaking away from the stereo type of blaming unemployment as the core factor for the insurgency and went on to say, that he admired the insurgents for their sacrifice and saluted them for their commitment to the cause.
“It is tapasya, it is sacrifice. I appreciate them and they need to be saluted for their bravery. I would like them to come forward and sit with me and work out the modalities for peace. Being an insurgent, fighting in the jungle for what he/she believes in speaks volumes about the leadership and commitment of the Manipuri youth. They are intelligent, spiritual, good hearted, extremely talented, and strong. They essentially want sovereignty to see the people prosper and be happy” said the globe icon of peace.
The Gurudev, as his followers fondly call him, asserted categorically that he is the right candidate to mediate as he understands the insurgents’ aspirations and sincerely wants to work for peace in Manipur.
“Let’s come out from the jungle and sit together and try to resolve our conflict. I know they are fighting for equal opportunity and justice for the people. Fighting in the jungle will not achieve this. We must have dialogue and I really want to facilitate this to bring peace and prosperity in Manipur.”
The fact that he meant business became clear when he laid out the premise of his peace proposal to the 50-odd armed groups operating in the state.
“While I understand their point of view, I want them to appreciate my viewpoint too. There is a paradigm shift in the world in the concept of sovereignty and independence in international politics. There is a realization that not independence but inter-dependence can bring real happiness and prosperity.”
The spiritual leader equate Manipur to a ‘catch-22’ situation, saying: “While the Government of India insists on peace first to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the insurgents want sovereignty to achieve peace.”
Although a few former militant leaders have been taken into confidence and are said to be ready to do the spadework for conflict resolution in Manipur, the looming question is how acceptable is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as a go-between to the hard core militant leaders? Despite his commendable role in conflict resolution in Columbia, the Middle East, Syria and Russia among others, will his credentials as an unbiased, independent third party hold ground with the rebels?
Significantly, Sri Sri’s peace project comes at a time when militancy in Manipur is on the wane, with more leaders fighting disillusionment amongst the rank and file over the direction in which the struggle is going and the achievability of the cause, however justifiable.
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