Sri Sri & Government Schools

Politicians in India made a lot of noise about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s misquoted statement that sick government schools in Naxal areas are a breeding ground for Naxalism. But this is nothing new!

In September last year, the Jagran Post published an article titled “Naxal Patshala in Government schools (http://post.jagran.com/Naxal-Pathshala-in-Jharkhand-government-schools-1315369134), which said: “In a shocking incident, naxal groups are using government schools in their stronghold as the nursery of Naxal philosophy. The security forces in the state have learnt that the naxal groups are taking classes in the schools in the heartland and are giving anti-establishment lessons to the schools’ children. This has raised questions against the education system and the functioning of the state government”.

Now the Jagran Post is no mean paper. It’s part of the Jainik Jagran group, which has a readership of 5.47 cr, making it, according to the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), the largest read daily in the world.

The truth is that parents in Indian, even from low income, prefer sending their kids to private schools because the infrastructure in govt schools is very poor. It is also well known that while some government schools lack teaching staff, or teachers rarely show-up, some others have non-deserving teachers appointed through bribe. Last year in Raichur dist of Karnataka, for example, 9342 students appeared in pre university exams out of which 69.91% failed. Most of these students had come from rural areas. Studies said that this is a result of extremely poor standards of education in rural areas. If some of these students become caught in the web of wrong doers, it won’t be a surprise.

So basically, Sri Sri did not say anything new or revolutionary. Indeed, he could have added that it’s not only in Govt schools that Naxalism is bred in India, but also in Government colleges such as the famous JNU in New Delhi. In February 2010, police in Kanpur arrested Chintan, alias Banshidhar Singh, member of the organisation’s politburo and once tipped to be future head of Uttar Bihar, UP and Uttrakhand sub-area committee. Bandshidar has a PhD and M Phil from the Jawaharlal Nehru University! In April 2010, students of the War Against People Forum in JNU, organized a meeting to celebrate the killings of 76 CRPF police by Maoists in Dantewada, as reported by the Times of India (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-04-12/delhi/28120620_1_naxalism-jnu-dantewada). And let us not forget that Binayajk Sen, whose strong leanings towards Naxalism cannot be doubted, taught at JNU.

In my 20 years association with him, I have witnessed that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s whole life is dedicated top service. The impression he is rich guru, as reported by many papers, is totally misleading: every cent earned by his course fees, go into sewa projects. For instance The Art of Living Foundation runs 85 free rural and tribal schools which are providing education to 23,500 children: it has also trained 61,546 rural youth in Youth Leadership Training Program – mainly in India, Africa, South America. Its 5H program – Health, Hygiene, Homes, Harmony in diversity, Human values – has reached 36,557 villages and it has groomed over 6000 people in organic farming. Not only that, but Sri Sri came up with a special programme for children and Youth called ART Excel (All Round Training in Excellence) This unique course, which my wife teaches, promotes the understanding of human values and encourages the overall well-being of children and young adults through a variety of empowering techniques that foster mental clarity and focus, physical relaxation and health, and emotional stability. Sri Sri also understood that jails, where many Naxalites end-up, often breed bitterness and anger towards society rather than bring about change. In view of this serious drawback, the Art of Living Foundation developed a programme called Prison SMART (Prison Stress Management and Rehabilitation Training). Aside from helping prisoners rehabilitate themselves, the programme teaches them life skills that enable inmates to accept responsibility for their past actions and to handle future conflicts successfully. In India, more than 1,20,000 prisoners from across the country have undergone Prison SMART with spectacular results. Now, it is being used in many jails around the world.

It pains me to see how in India gurus are treated by the Media and the politicians. There is much more respect in the West for our Christian clergy. I have also observed that Indians publications will never dare say anything against Muslim mullahs, even if they preach secession, as their newspaper offices are liable to be burnt down by angry mobs as it happened in Bangalore and elsewhere. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a very mild person. In 20 years of my association with him, I have never heard him speak ill of anybody, never seen him get angry or even impatient with anyone. As a human being, who has, like many of us, problems controlling anger and impatience, I know it is not mean achievement.

So much for Kapil Sibal’s, sanctimonious statements. Mr Sibal was by the way, mostly educated at St. Stephen`s College, University of Delhi, and Harvard Law School, and certainly did not send his children to Govt schools.

Author of the Guru of Joy (Hay House), which sold more than 100.000 copies worldwide

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