Members of about 200 families of militants, security personnel and other victims of violence in Kashmir came together at the Art of Living Foundation on Bengaluru outskirts Friday for Paigam-e-Mohabbat — an initiative by Sri Sri Ravishankar to mediate peace. Last year, Ravishankar had planned to talk to stakeholders in the Kashmir problem, including separatists, but the efforts were halted after violence escalated in Kashmir. In August last year, Muzaffar Wani, father of slain militant Burhan Wani, visited the Art of Living ashram and discussed several issues with Ravishankar .
The event comes at a time when the Centre special representative Dineshwar Sharma is in Jammu and Kashmir to hold talks.
Ravishankar said his initiative was “completely independent’’ of the government. “These efforts have been on for a long time, but they have now reached a critical stage and I see it assuming a bigger shape now,’’ he said. “There is a lot to be done. There is nothing to be gained from blaming each other.’’
He said a mediator for peace in Kashmir must not refuse to talk to anyone, even separatists.
Following the meeting, members of the violence-hit families expressed hope that Ravishankar would be able to fill gaps in the government’s mediation efforts.
“If he comes forward, people will talk to him because he has worked for long in Kashmir. Hurriyat has refused to talk to the government representative. If Gurudev (Ravishankar) steps forward, even (Hurriyat chairman) S A Geelani will talk to him,’’ said former militant Farook Ahmed Dar.
“We decided to come to Bengaluru because we know Gurudev has studied Kashmir. Government representatives like Dineshwar Sharma meet a special set of people, not ordinary people like us,’’ said Munir Chaudhry, whose relative was killed in the violence.
“I am not a political person, but I hope Gurudev’s efforts will end the cycle of violence and begin the process of forgiveness,’’ said Priya Sankalp, widow of Lt Col Sankalp Kumar, who died battling militants in Kashmir in 2014.
Neha Tripathi, widow of CRPF officer Pramod Kumar, who died on duty in the Valley last year, said, “When I came here, I did not know that I would be sharing a platform with people from Kashmir. Later, I understood that it was part of Gurudev’s efforts for peace.’’
Some were, however, skeptical. “Gurudev told us he is willing to do anything for us, but what can he do? Can he give us money, jobs, livelihood,” asked 26-year-old Arshed L, who lost his elder brother to violence over a decade ago. “People will not open up here out of fear of who is watching. Nobody will speak their mind.’’