By Biswaraj Patnaik in Puri, March 14, 2018: Art of Living super Guru Ravi Shankar seems to have gone a little mad. He organised a huge cultural convention on the banks of holy river Yamuna in Delhi in brazen defiance to the warnings from the National Green Tribunal. The great Guru didn’t even cough out the hefty fine slapped by the NGT. He went ahead and did what he liked as if he is above law and the saffron authorities stood by him.

Even Kejeriwal was mesmerised by his pomp and show and poured praises over the seven–star guru who sells yoga to people with big dough. The poor can only see his photo or listen to his impracticable sermons on television. For everything he does, he clips a price tag, and a big one at that. It seems he has been polluted by the Hindu fundamentalists as he has lately given a verdict on what will happen to the Ram Mandir matter being heard by the apex court of the country.

The Hinduism-ignorant self-styled guru, as if he were the emperor of India, has said just a couple of days ago that if the Supreme Court rules in favour of Muslims, there will be civil war and if the Hindus win, there shall be uncontrollable bloodshed. Such vulgar verdicts by a spiritual leader expected to be good to all communities, has sent a very wrong message across the masses.

More significantly, that he is trying to influence the court shows how uneducated he is. It may be brought on record that he has been making anti-Muslim rants ever since 2002 when the Godhra event had shaken up the world. His scary statements indicate plain ‘threat’ which has baffled everyone everywhere. His conduct and mind reveal what really lies beneath the polished exterior of his clean image.

A highly reputed journalist recounts what Ravi Shankar had said to a group of 5-6 journalists at a social event just after the Gujarat riots. Without a feeling of shame he had said that he had gone to meet the then home minister LK Advani to impress all that he was extremely concerned about the situation in the country, and was working to reinstate peace and brotherhood. A little later, this dialogue came out– “wo log bare hi kattar hote hain. Quran mein toh likha hain, pata nahi sau ya aise hi kuch logon ko maar kar musalman to ghazi ki upadhi mil jati hai”. (Those people are quite fanatical. It is said in the Quran that if they kill a hundred or so people, a Muslim attains the title of Ghazi aka a warrior general).

As he repeated this twice, and then went around explaining it, one of the junior-most reporters mustered courage and politely asked him where this was written and whether he had read it himself. He told him what he was saying was incorrect and that he shouldn’t say such things. Ravi Shankar looked a little shocked and rattled, then changed the subject and moved away. However, the mood of the entire meeting had changed. Most of the journalists present were pretty sure there is nothing of this sort in the Quran. The word ‘Ghazi’ means warrior, a religious warrior – it is an Arabic word.

Ravi Shankar is a guru for the urban affluent like many others who have mastered oratory and the techniques of displaying outward calmness, though at most times they keep burning and exploding inside with rage when disconcerting questions are made to them. One such creature called Asaram Bapu exposed himself unwittingly on even a more horrible act and has made jail his home since more than two years.
If you look at the Baba/religious guru market, a clear trend becomes visible. There is no dearth of tragedy and depression in India, so most people spend their lives based on “feel good” faith. To fulfill this demand, we have numerous Babas, who cater to different segments.

Ravi Shankar caters to the wealthy and the middle class. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is for the luxury segment. Somewhat different from them is Baba Ramdev, the aam aadmi and the poor man’s guru, who at least delivers some direct benefit – he teaches yoga, sells everyday necessities, and protests hypocrisy and superstition. People like Ravi Shankar spend their lives trying to prove themselves as Godmen, different from the common man.

What hurts is that successful and educated people too getting caught in a cycle of superstition under their influence. The modern day Indian Gurus are actually untrained, crude politicians in spiritual clothing. Many of them have ended up as mouthpieces for the politicians who use them. These self-serving Godmen seem desperate to become flag-bearers and sing songs in praise of the political parties they cling to for benefits.

Ravi Shankar has fallen to new lows. The Supreme Court is being sent a message, or a threat, so to speak: ‘Pay attention to popular opinion, and give a verdict accordingly’. He has even gone further to say that the Ayodhya Ram Mandir matter can never be solved by the Supreme Court. He can only solve it by talking to the litigant communities across the table as he is superior in knowledge and commonsense than the best judicial minds interpreting law at the apex court of the country. Ravi Shankar, thus, is a threat to society. He is a mercenary. He might not see the electoral use of polarisation, hate, and sectarianism in society, but it is possible that he is doing all this, with or without an invitation, to keep his shop running.

In 2002 many luminaries had formed a loose opinion that Ravi Shankar was ignorant. But in his latest role, he has solidified a common opinion that he is perfectly ignorant, as well as an anarchist.
The BJP is maybe making sporadic gains here and there; but the saffron outfit is misusing greedy self-proclaimed Godmen for publicising their make believe great plans and programmes. Their only big dream is to capture Odisha ad a reticent chief minister in Kurta-pyjamas is pounding the BJP like heavy hammers do fall on red hot soft metal in a blacksmith’s workshop.

Naveen has taken a most historic decision just two days ago: All urban slum dwellers will get right over the plots they have occupied for decades yet suffering without title. They have been contributing to the growth of the urban centres in a manner that cannot be weighed by ordinary equipment. They have been treated as encroachers forced to live in constant threat of eviction.

The remarkable part of the decision is to formalise the full area a family occupies irrespective of size. This is called in situ settlement meaning as found on location. There was a choice between continuing the practice of evicting people living in fear and insecurity and recognising their immense contribution and providing them land rights.

Keeping people first, the government chose the second option. A seemingly complicated situation always has a simple solution provided a bit of logical thinking is resorted to. This experiment is the first of its kind in the country. The Tata Trust experts have been roped in to design and guide on the rehabilitation scheme so as to make the habitations assimilate well with the surrounding and the poor people gain deity immensely.

The Roman empire was the first republic in the civilised world as per history. The monarch only played the role of a pro-people leader. The Republic had a senate. Julius Caesar was a great leader but as he took all critical decisions in state matters, the greedy senators felt grossly overshadowed and dwarfed. They considered him a despotic dictator and decided to eliminate him.

On March 15, 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated by high ranking Roman Senators. The day is known as the “Ides of March.” The assassination of Julius Caesar was the result of a conspiracy by many senators. Led by Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus, and Marcus Junius Brutus, they stabbed Julius Caesar to death in a location adjacent to the Theatre of Pompey on the Ides of March on this day in 44 BC.

Ever since then the heads of republics learnt the big lesson of respecting consensus. But the Roman senate aristocrats had killed Caesar because they perceived him to be a popular leader who threatened their privileged interests. By this view, the deed was more an act of treason than tyrannicide, one incident in a line of political murders dating back across the better part of a century, a dramatic manifestation of a long-standing struggle between opulent conservatives and popularly supported reformers.

March 15th is also celebrated as an international Consumer Rights Day. J.F. Kennedy, the president of the USA, had declared the consumers rights publicly for the first time on the March 15th 1962 and this day has been observed as a consumers day ever since.

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