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Posted at: Nov 24, 2016, 12:31 AM; last updated: Nov 24, 2016, 12:31 AM (IST)

Art of Living offers to rebuild 27 schools burnt in Kashmir

Art of Living offers to rebuild 27 schools burnt in Kashmir
Sanjay Kumar, host of the conference. Tribune Photo

Amit Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Jammu, November 23

The Art of Living has offered to rebuild 27 schools burnt in Kashmir to save the education of over 4,500 students of the Valley. It was disclosed in an interview with The Tribune by Sanjay Kumar, who has hosted a conference “Kashmir Back to Paradise” held by the Art of Living here.

What prompts the Art of Living to work towards making Kashmir backa paradise?

This is not the first time that the Art of Living has taken any initiative there. We have been active there since year 2000 and have conducted youth leadership training programmes, disaster and trauma relief and wide range of other humanitarian works. In 2005 also the Art of Living had organised a conference on human values in Srinagar. Then Gurudev Sri Sri was greeted by over 500 Muslim youth. The Art of Living organised a conference on “Human values and non-violence” for leaders of opposing factions, such as the Hurriyat Conference, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Kashmiri Pandits. Since the recent escalation of violence many delegations from Kashmir have visited the Art of Living International Centre.

What all ground activities are you going to initiate in Kashmir?

Earlier, the Art of Living interventions in J&K has spanned four broad areas: Trauma-relief programmes for all sections of society; bringinga sense of harmony by facilitating dialogue between people of diverse viewpoints; working to alleviate the plight of people in migrant camps; and initiating youth leadership programmes, addressing the issues of youth caught in the web of militancy or affected by it.

We will continue this programme. Besides, the recent escalation of unrest in the Kashmir valley since July 2016 had an unfortunate fallout - burning down of 27 educational institutions by miscreants. The arson has affected more than 4,500 students, evoking strong condemnation from parents, educationists, traders and mainstream civil society. In the light of this painful incident, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has offered to rebuild the 27 schools burnt down in Kashmir. Many people have responded with a willingness to support this initiative.

Do you think by creating a common platform for diverse stakeholders to share their views on the current situation of unrest and some developmental activities, such as constructing school buildings etc, they will come up with a lasting solution without political willingness?

The stakeholders are mentioned just above this. One thing to understand here is that there is no ethnic unrest here. Kashmiris are one people, whether they are from the Pandit community or from the Muslim community. The purpose of this conference is to involve all of them, including politicians, to bring in a lasting solution, including rebuilding of schools. Once peace regains its place in the Valley, terrorism will stop. Because the people of Kashmir will say no to this, they will stand up to say no.

Sri Sri is a globally reputed spiritual leader. Why does he not involve Pakistan Government and the leaders of separatist groups to be present in this event?

This conference is primarily aimed at bringing the people of Kashmir together and is not a political or an ideological conference. Only the stakeholders, the common people of Kashmir are invited to this event.

We have our Art of Living centre in Pakistan also and there also we are reaching out to people, thus fostering harmony and peace.

What are your plans to uplift the socio-economic status of the vulnerable Kashmiris and establish peace in the breeding ground of cross-border terrorism?

Education and awareness are the primary goals of bringing people together at this conference. Rebuilding of schools is another area of bringing them together. People are fed up of violence. Business is suffering. Once they all come together, peace and development will become a reality. Without peace there is no development. Please remember this. Look Kashmir is not a breeding ground for terrorism. It is run by vested interests.

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