Spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravishankar courted controversy by claiming that government schools are breeding grounds for Naxalism and his comments were condemned by educationists and a ministers today as "unfortunate and illogical."
Union Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal expressed surprise at the remarks and posed a question as to whether people in high positions in all walks of life who have studied in government schools are Naxals.
Addressing a function in Hindi at a school near Jaipur last evening, Ravishankar said government should privatise education and close state-run schools as they breed Naxals.
"Government ko koi school nahi chalana chahiye. Aksar paya jata hai ki government school se padhe hue bacche hi is tarha naxalvad me hinsa ke marg me chale jate hai"(Government should not run any school. It is often found that boys studied in government schools go into Naxalism and violence).
The Art of Living founder, who is also popularly called Guruji, had also said that all government schools should be privatised.
"I feel that all the schools and colleges should be privatised and handed over to some other Sanstha (organisation). Such things are not in the boys of private schools and they (from private schools) move ahead with an ideal and teachers are responsible for it," he added.
Rajasthan Education Minister Brijkishore Sharma said Ravishankar's remarks were unfortunate and uncalled for.
Around 50 people including students of government higher secondary school at Jhalana in Jaipur, their guardians and other locals burnt an effigy of Ravishankar in front of the school. They demanded an apology from the spiritual guru.
People's Union for Civil Liberties(PUCL) while criticising Ravishankar demanded legal action against him.
Asked by newsmen in Delhi for his response, Sibal said people who are in the highest positions in the government and outside government, members of the judiciary and former Presidents have studied in government schools. "Can it ever be said that they are all naxalites," he asked.
Sibal said he would give a "benefit of doubt" to Ravi Shankar "because I do not think even temporarily a person would be inclined to say such a thing because it would be such a sweeping statement that no individual having a sense of balance would make such a statement."
When contacted, Tripurari, a local spokesperson of Art of Living in Jaipur said Ravishankar's sense was that Indian cultured schools like Adarsh Vidhya Mandir produce well cultured students who lead life with an ideal and they never follow the path of violence.
"Guru Ji's point was simple that education should be privatised. He did not intend to link government schools and education system run by the government to naxalism or any such activity," he said.
Sharma said Government schools have been functioning for a long time and produced very talented youths and whatever Ravishankar has said is unfortunate and not acceptable.
"As far as Rajasthan is concerned, we do not find any example as said by Ravishankar. The concept of private school is a new concept and earlier, students used to study in government schools only," he told PTI.
Narayan Singh, a representative of Rajasthan Elementary and Panchayti Raj Teachers Sangharsh Samiti, said Ravishankar should have spoken in a responsible manner because a large number of students study in government schools.
"The statement is biased and illogical. There are numerous example of students passed out from government schools are serving as IAS, IPS officers and holding other dignified and responsible positions in the country and why he did not mention this?" he said.
Prakash Panwar, a Youth Congress activist, demanded an apology from Ravishankar.
"People expect good words from a personality like Ravishankar but with his biased statement he has reflected his mentality which is simply unfortunate," he said.
Protesting against Sri Sri Ravishankar's remarks, members of teachers' outfit 'Rajasthan Shikshak Sangh' burnt his effigy near Birla auditorium before arrival of the spiritual guru.
Ravishankar was scheduled to attend a function there to mark the birthday of BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Ramdas Agrawal.
Volunteers present at the main gate of the auditorium were involved in a heated argument with the protesters but the police managed to defuse the situation.
© Copyright PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of any PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.