The man in the eye of the ongoing storm in Kashmir, Muzaffar Wani, father of the popular Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, has triggered a fresh controversy by staying Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ashram in Bengaluru for two days. Everybody is puzzled as to why a man who has become a burning symbol of the ongoing revolt felt the need to travel to Bengaluru to meet Sri Sri and what was it that he had to discuss with him, at a time when Kashmir is on fire.
Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8 has triggered the ongoing uprising and subsequent death of 70 people and the blinding of around two hundred others with the authorities forced to impose curfew on the state for more than 50 days.
Amid all this tension, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar tweeted that Muzaffar Wani was at his ashram in Bengaluru for two days and that they had “discussed several issues”. Accompanying his tweet was his photograph with a smiling Muzaffar Wani at the ashram.
Later Art of Living Foundation issued a statement: “Mr Muzaffar Wani was in the ashram for two days. Certainly, Sri Sri and Mr Wani discussed the current situation, about the suffering and how peace and normalcy can be restored in the Valley. It was purely on a personal and humanitarian angle”.
And Muzaffar Wani’s response only added to the mystery.
“I had gone to ashram for treatment and stayed there for diabetes treatment,” Muzaffar said when asked about the purpose of his visit to Bengaluru. “I came back with some medicines for myself. That is all”.
He denied that Sri Sri had asked him anything else. “Sri Sri just talked to me for five minutes or so at the most,” Muzaffar said.
The visit has put the Valley at a loss for words. People have started questioning as to why he had to visit Sri Sri for treatment in the middle of the bloodbath in Valley and apparently without letting anybody know and without taking separatist groups into confidence.
“How did he (Muzaffar Wani) stay at Ashram for two days when Kashmiris are going through a very bad phase and anti-India sentiment is rife,” wrote one Javeed Ali in a letter to a local Kashmir daily. “Hundreds of youth have lost vision in one or both the eyes due to the current unrest and so many have been maimed. Is Muzaffar Wani unaware about the prevailing situation in Kashmir or is he doing something more than meets the eye,” Javeed wondered.
Separatist groups have not reacted to the development. The government has detained three major separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik. The Mirwaiz has been shifted to Chashma Shahi sub jail on the outskirts of Srinagar, which has led people to think that the government is trying to engage the separatists by incarcerating them.
Incidentally, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will be leading the visit of an all-party delegation to Kashmir on September 4 and is expected to interact with a cross-section of people, individuals and organisations in its efforts to bring peace to the strife-torn Valley.
On Sunday, Singh had an hour-long meeting with BJP president Amit Shah, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and MoS for PMO Jitendra Singh and discussed with them the modalities of the all-party delegation.
However, separatists have so far shown little willingness to meet the delegation. They are seeking a dialogue that is geared towards resolution of Kashmir than management of the current crisis. “We can’t have a conflict management now. We want a credible process that aims to resolve Kashmir,” a Hurriyat leader, who didn’t want to be identified, said.