Art of Fleeing: Sri Sri disciples deny report

Times of India/January 11, 2005

Kathmandu -- Disciples of Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar have denied media reports that he left a south Indian coastal village in a hurry on receiving a tsunami alert.

An official from the guru's Art of Living Foundation in Kathmandu described the media report "misleading".

In a report headlined "Tsunami scare hits Sri Sri", French news agency AFP, which covered Ravi Shankar's visit last week to Akkrapattai, a tsunami hit fishing village in Tamil Nadu, had given a detailed account of the incident.

It said Ravi Shankar, who was scheduled to conduct a healing session for the traumatised fishing community of the village, had his "motorcade of luxury cars" swing round swiftly and "onlookers said he looked tense and was in a hurry to leave".

The report was splashed on the front page of a local daily on Sunday.

Mamta Kailkhura, coordinator of the communication bureau of the Art of Living Foundation, said, "Neither did the false alarm scare the founder nor did he flee."

In her letter, published in the daily on Tuesday, Kailkhura said the guru changed his plan about going to the village since most of the villagers had left following a false alarm about a second tsunami strike and the exodus made the road impossible to drive through.

"Hence Sri Sri decided to change the plan and meet hundreds of victims waiting for him in the nearby relief camps," she said. "Over the last three days, Sri Sri, who cancelled some of his programmes in Europe to fly back to India, has been visiting several relief camps in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu... He has been continuously visiting the victims... In fact, the local administration has welcomed the initiatives of the foundation to start a trauma relief cell to help the victims..."

The Art of Living Foundation has units in Nepal. Ravi Shankar had visited Nepal late last year at the invitation of Nepal Tourism Board, the nodal tourism agency in the country, to promote religious tourism and portray Nepal as a safe destination.

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