The founder of the Art of Living Foundation and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Wednesday said that solution to Kashmir problem can only come from the Kashmiris.
Speaking at a one day conference ‘Kashmir Back to Paradise’ here Sri Sri said: "Kashmir ka hal Kashmiryion se hi a sakta hai bahar se nahi ho sakta (The solution to the Kashmir problem can only come from the Kashmiris)."
"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 in Kashmir. 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 Kashmir who attended the conference included, renowned Kashmiri historian, M Y Taing, the PDP leader Nizam Ud Din Bhat, Deputy Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Subrata Saha, 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 and others.
“Majority of Kashmiris are peace lovers but unfortunately they have inherited fear and mistrust, which needs to be addressed for long lasting harmony and development in the region,” Sri Sri said.
He said surrendered militants, stone pelters and common people of Kashmir have come to attend the conference with an aim to shun the path of violence and live in peace.
A spokesman of the Foundation said that many delegations from Kashmir who met Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in the recent months, like Dr Ghulam Rasool Hami, head of the JK based Karwan-I-Islami, Muzaffar Wani, father of slain Hizb commander Burhan Wani, had requested him to intervene in Kashmir, given the immense goodwill, trust and confidence he enjoys among people across the political and social spectrum in Kashmir.
The spokesman said that this is an effort on the part of "The Art of Living" to rally diverse stakeholders in an effort to restore peace in Kashmir. The conference, he said, provided a platform for a more broad-based approach where a cross-section of Kashmiri leadership voiced their opinion and support for the need for peace in the Valley. “By getting peoples voices heard, through working towards dispute redressal and opening channels of communication between different factions are various other methods being utilised in this process,” he added.
"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 hartal 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," Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said.
The Forum would span eight South Asian countries to bring them together, to cooperate and work in areas such as entrepreneurship, skill development, cultural exchange, educational partnerships and women empowerment initiatives among others.
He said there are a high percentage of people in Kashmir, who want peace but they feel ‘neglected’ and ‘ignored’ as their voice is not heard outside and even not being highlighted by the media. “Above 90 percent people want peace and development, but unfortunately they have failed to raise their voice” he said adding to address the genuine voice this platform was launched.
“This forum will provide platform and space to the ignored section of people in Kashmir, which is around 90 percent and they want peace for an overall development, progress and prosperity of the region,” Sri Sri said.
Responding to the query as what would be the 'mantra' to restore peace in Kashmir and guide the ‘trouble shooters’ Sri Sri said, “It is a proven fact that conflict becomes cash-cow for some people. They earn in the name of struggle and freedom movements, but actually don't know from whom and what kind of 'Azaadi' (freedom) they want”.
He said that people need to understand this, and sideline these elements by raising their voice.
“This forum will help people to understand such things and make them understand the truth as our motive is restoration of peace,” he claimed.
He also added that some religious preachers met him and batted for peace, but expressed resentment that nobody listens to their pleas.
Asserting that forum is not political and has no affiliation with and political party, religion, ideology, he said its motive is very clear that is to restore peace in the region with the help and cooperation of intelligentsia and intellectuals. “Kashmir has numerous intellectuals but there is no think tank, once we all will come together, this platform will act as think tank for solution of Kashmir issue,” he said.
“We will surely find out a way out to solve the issues in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.