Sri Sri explains NGT cess climbdown, blames media


On the second day of the World Culture Festival, Art of Living (AOL) founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar blamed the media while explaining why AOL had paid the first installment of the cess imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Friday, despite his initial refusal to pay the Rs 5 crore fine the NGT had asked for.

“I have never even paid a late exam fee in school. When I have done no wrong, I said I won’t pay a fine. But when I learnt that the media had reported it wrongly… that it was not a fine, but a cess… we paid,” Sri Sri said to an audience comprising a number of political leaders including Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, along with governors and chief ministers from several states.

The second day of the event also saw saints and community leaders, from religions around the globe, speak about world peace. Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, grand mufti of the Syrian Arab Republic, Reverend Gunnar Stalsett, Bishop Emeritus of Oslo, Mufti Mohammad Saeed Khan, founder of Madani Trust in Pakistan, Ram Bhadracharya, founder and head of Tulsi peeth in Mathura, were among the speakers.

While Hassoun called for “unification of the good people of all religions”, Mufti Mohammad Saeed Khan and Sri Sri raised slogans in favour of both India and Pakistan.

Congratulating Sri Sri, Swaraj said, “For three days, Guruji has converted Delhi into a vishwa nagari (global city)”.

She said she was not surprised at the scale of the event, adding, “I know Guruji can have an event of this scale, not just in Delhi, but anywhere in the world. I took him to New York during the International Yoga Day. He was nearly mobbed at Times Square amid cheers of Sri Sri,” she said.

Sisodia said the event showcased the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is your family) philosophy of India. He also urged people to remember the contribution of farmers. “This event could be organised on the banks of Yamuna because farmers vacated their land… for us. I would like to remind us all that whatever we can do for this land, to help them in their work, we must do,” said Sisodia.

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