The venue was the same. The mission almost identical. Even the crowd was quite similar. Going by the fates of recent confluences at Ram Leela Maidan, it is tempting to dismiss Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s clarion call for a better India as a mere show of strength which is doomed to fizzle out. But doing so will be akin to committing the hara-kiri of attempting a suicidal single off the first ball of an Indo-Pak Test match. For one not-so-obvious reason, the destiny of this movement is written differently.
I say this not because Sri Sri is my spiritual guru. Nor because his movement is backed UN agencies! Not even because he has got the youth of India on his side. The fate of Sri Sri’s Volunteer For A Better India (VFABI) will be different only because the movement is anchored in spirituality. Just because its approach is holistic! From what we saw at Ram Leela Maidan last week, I can vouch that this pan-India mobilisation has the depth to see things as they exist. It’s not clouded by prejudices of any kind; for or against any person, any party, any ideology, and, for that matter, any thing. As an IIT alumnus emphasised from the dais, seemingly there are no adversaries in spirituality!
It is really heartening that there wasn’t slightest hint of rabble-rousing during the gathering that lasted over three hours and attended a diverse crowd of nearly 200,000 people. Sri Sri didn’t play to the gallery. Instead, he gave a passionate and compelling appeal to the masses. “Keep the fire in the belly for a better India burning, but don’t allow it to burn India!” He extended the hand of communion and made a fervent appeal to the government to join in the movement.
The tone was distinctly different from what Ram Leela Maidan has echoed ever since it became the forced destination for an awaken Indians to express their frustrations against a failed system. Like Sri Sri, everyone present was totally focussed on the objective and the job on hand. Nobody wasted time or energy in anti-government sloganeering or finger-pointing. Instead, everybody was busy committing what they can do to better India instead of blaming others for what they didn’t do or what they did! The resolve was simple and palpable. “Ham ungli nahin, kadam uthayenge.”
The whole atmosphere of negativity and cynicism that’s drowning India of late was replaced by a positively charged platform for making India better! The ‘Cow Culture’ as eulogised by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was on full display. The octogenarian Islamic scholar and peace activist must have felt the pulse of the gathering when he talked about living like a cow which churns dry (negativity) grass into nutritious milk (positivity).
The hope for a better India undoubtedly lies in making her people embrace this ‘Cow Culture’. And its promise to deliver on this front makes Sri Sri’s Ram Leela pledge revolutionary. More than anything, VFABI will make public participation in nation-building accessible and easier. It will open up ways in which one can take responsibility and contribute to creating an India that is clean, safe and strong. And much isn’t demanded. Just one hour a day will do. There is a wide range of issues one can get involved with. From women safety to corruption to child rights to literacy to de-addication to environment protection, there will be something that’s close to one’s heart. The idea is to make all Indians think and act about their nation at least for an hour a day. As Sri Sri said, if that spirit of volunteerism and patriotism were alive, no passerby would have ignored Nirbhaya when she was gasping for life after being thrown out of the bus on that fateful evening.
The idea is clicking on the ground. More than 1000 projects have already been taken up in schools, colleges, slums, villages, through workshops, nukkad nataks, medical camps, education camps, awareness drives, etc in NCR alone. On the big stage itself, a series of far-reaching partnerships and alliances were announced. Fifteen thousand Doctors of Delhi Medical Association (DMA) have already pledged to dedicate two Sundays a year for free consultation under the program “Do Ravivar Desh Ke Naam.
This energy of Desh Bhakti is going to reverberate across India as thousands of Sri Sri’s devotees join in. Already several cities have lined up Ram Leela Maidan-like events. From Mumbai to Bangalore to Siliguri, the call for action will only get lauder. Surely, nobody is going to complain about the rising decibel. As we saw in Delhi, the noise is going to be very satvic and uplifting. As it happened to all those who were present Ram Leela Maidan and those who show it live on television, VFABI is primed to make all Indians irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, region, etc forget about the barriers and think only as an Indian. That is the key. As Sri Sri said, “It is not just the work of an organization but the whole country.”
I hope our political class will also join in. May God bless them with the vision to see this initiative as a spirit(ual) revolution and not as a divisive political mobilisation! Amen, Aameen, Tathastu!