What what can can Sri Sri tell tell IITians IITians?

PanIIT, a conglomeration of alumni of the seven Indian Institutes of Technology, is to hold its 2010 conclave from  October 29-31 in New Delhi. The focal theme of the three-day meet is “Sustainable Transformation: Our New India“.

“Participants would have the unique opportunity to tap into the experience of globally recognised thought leaders, to learn from peers in a collaborative learning environment…,” reads the mission statement.

Among the globally recognised thought leaders providing gyan at the gab-fest are the likes of economist Jeffrey Sachs, technologist Nandan Nilekani and columnist Thomas L. Friedman.

And “India’s future Nobel laureate“, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

In session “S20”, on the concluding day of the conclave, “Mr Shankar” is expected to throw kindly light between 10.45 and 11.30 am. Not all IITians are enthused by the thought. Below is the full text of a press release issued by “PanIIT Ravi Shankar Protest Committee”:

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The mantra of PanIIT conclave for this year is “Sustainable Transformation: our new India”.

Will Ravi Shankar be able to help us in being a role model in achieving this objective? Even a cursory glance at his achievement sans all the spin by the media will show how IIT alumni will be totally misled and get the wrong message.

PanIIT conclave is an opportunity to send strong messages by inviting those leaders who have been successful in projecting good values. Ravi Shankar has certainly been a superb salesman in marketing sudarshan kriya. His Art of Living foundation has been successful in earning huge profits while being a charitable organization.

Unfortunately, the values represented by his activities are not the ones for us to emulate. Especially when corruption is the top agenda item in India preventing the proper development of India, should we invite some one like Ravi Shankar?

Would we invite Ambani brothers despite their enormous wealth to give a talk on values and sustainability?

In one of the satsangs, when he was asked about global warming and climate change, Ravi Shankar seriously compared it to the Y2K problem, and how Y2K was not a problem and so also global warming. Either he was not aware of the enormous efforts by the world to avoid Y2K or he gave a wrong analogy.

When he was asked how to solve Kashmir problem, his “insightful” comment was that youth should get involved. Was it supposed to be a joke?

While the web sites of AOL give all the information about how to enroll for basic and advanced courses, how he has been involved in solving all the world problems like Iraq, Kashmir, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, there is no information on what happens to millions it has earned or the assets it has accumulated over the years.

It is true AOL does help the poor, educate the needy and supports worth causes. So do many of our corrupt political leaders and unethical businessmen. Do such acts of goodwill wash their sins?

Any charitable organisation seeking donation is expected to be transparent and publish its accounts. Why has AOL not published them? Has it paid any income taxes on its earnings as any business activity would? What kind of values it transmits when there is no transparency?

It is possible to give a long list of reasons why inviting Ravi Shankar was a wrong decision. But the above short explanation should be more than adequate. Some of us protestors, even at the risk of being rude to an invited guest (we do feel guilty), wanted to send a message to organisers to be more vigilant in inviting the right kind of people for future conclaves. We also invite attendees even at this late stage to show our disappointment by not attending the event where Ravi Shankar would be speaking.

Suresh Adina, Convener, PanIIT Ravi Shankar Protest Committee

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