Sri Sri initiates peace process in Kashmir
Launches South Asian Forum for Peace
Srinagar: The Art of Living founder and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has taken the first step in his Kashmir peace initiative by bringing diverse groups on a common platform to find an amicable solution to the protracted conflict.
The multiple stakeholders who came together included former militants, families of victims of militancy, youth leaders, women, entrepreneurs, parents’ bodies, select Kashmiri NGOs, Sufi leaders, academicians, media, persons in art and culture, Sikh community representatives and dissenters including those who resorted to throwing stones at security forces.
It is for the first time in recent months that such a diverse and large representation of stakeholders from Jammu and Kashmir came together for a dialogue on on the situation in Kashmir as part of the ‘Kashmir Back to Paradise’ conference on November 22.
Addressing the gathering, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said: “Many of you have traveled 12 and 15 hours to get here because you are deeply pained by what has happened in the recent months. I have not come here with a ready-made solution. We will all have to come together, sit together and bring out a solution. Solutions cannot be found in the streets, not with stones and guns.”
Some of the intellectuals from the Valley included My Ting, renowned Kashmiri historian; Nizam Ud Din Bhat, senior Kashmiri journalist; Lt Gen Subrata Saha, Deputy Chief of Army Staff and second in command; Prof. Nisar Ali, economist of international repute and former advisor to the World Bank and IMF; Ashok Aima, vice chancellor, Central University of Jammu.
Many delegations from Kashmir who met the spiritual leader in recent months, like Dr. Ghulam Rasool Hami, head of the J & K based Karwan-I-Islami; Muzaffar Wani, father of slain militant Burhan Wani; had requested Sri Sri to intervene in Kashmir, given the immense goodwill, trust and confidence he enjoys among people across the political and social spectrum in Kashmir.
This is an effort on the part of The Art of Living to rally diverse stakeholders to restore peace in the Valley. The conference provided a platform for a more broad-based approach where a cross-section of Kashmiri leadership voiced their opinions and stressed the need for peace in the Valley. By getting people’s voices heard, through working towards redress of disputes and opening channels of communication between different factions are other methods used in this process.
Sri Sri also launched a new platform called the South Asian Forum for Peace with an aim to bring eight South Asian countries together, to co-operate and work in areas such as entrepreneurship, skill development, cultural exchange, educational partnerships and women empowerment initiatives among others.
Announcing the new initiative, the spiritual leader said: “Kashmir has been a bastion of the intellectuals, artists, spiritual leaders, Sufis, literary greats, Rishis and Munis. But unfortunately today, we are helplessly watching schools being burnt, schools and buses are being burnt, shops being gutted. There are many sane voices which are unheard. The common man is caught between harthaal and curfews. So there is a dire need for a platform where common people can express their opinions, ideas. So I thought we should come together and form a platform, South Asian Forum for Peace.”
This is not the first time that Sri Sri has been involved in resolving geo-political conflicts. He was successful in bringing a five-decade- old civil war in Colombia to an end. For this, Gurudev was awarded the highest Colombian civilian award. In 2015, Sri Sri also visited Iraq to garner international support for the Yazdi community which is nearing cultural and political annihilation due to the sustained ISIS attacks on its members.