In a newspaper interview published today, Mr. Ravi Shankar again reiterated that he would never pay a fine. He said he agreed to pay the compensation to develop the Yamuna floodplains. He also said that the farmers were happy with the compensation amount given by his Art of Living Foundation.

He lashed out at his critics for trying to paint his event in a negative light. He said the successful management of the World Culture Festival (WCF), which was even bigger than the Olympics and the FIFA soccer world cup events, should silence everyone. He said the place where the event was organised was a dumping ground and his Foundation would develop it into a beautiful biopark.

So, in a way, Mr. Ravi Shankar has further toughened his stand from what he was earlier saying.

But he is not realizing that this stand is so anti-middle class – ‘audacity of privilege’ – as one article described it. It is a well-established fact that popular sentiments tend to be with the weaker sections. Here Mr. Ravi Shankar sounded like an adamant powerbroker while those who were opposing his event were seen as working for a just cause. The sentiment was further augmented by the hostile comments that the WCF got from the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal.

Mr. Ravi Shankar may have pure intent but when you address masses to convey your viewpoints, it is not your intent, but your words that echo.

And the impression that have had loud echoes during all this WCF row is that Mr. Ravi Shankar acted as if he was above all – above the rule of law – above those activists crying hoarse – and above the common men who bore the brunt of incessant traffic nightmares in a city that is already reeling under the intense chaos of some 80 lakh vehicles making traffic snarls a daily routine.

That has not gone down well with masses, especially the target group that forms the support base of sages or religious gurus like Mr. Ravi Shankar – the urban middle class, the educated youth and the middle-age professionals.

The great Indian middle class that is projected to become the largest middle class base in the world by 2030 – a market of some 450 million people, as BBC and Harvard Business Review reports put it.

Just scroll through social media platforms and you can see the anger there.

Also, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is not Baba Ramdev.

The brand appeal that Mr. Ravi Shankar has is for classes while Ramdev has become a mass phenomenon. We need to accept that with the rapid strides his Patanjali brand of household products are making.

And another development that lends more justifications to the questions raised on the event is the cropping up of advertisements of Sri Sri Ayurveda products with the WCF. There is nothing wrong in trying to build outreach for your products but what about timing? The ‘purely’ marketing exercise just doesn’t gel with the tall claims of ‘world peace and humanitarianism’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –

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