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Rs 5 crore fine by NGT on Art of Living is like Jizya, says VHP

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:52 IST

Surendra Jain, International Joint General Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has equated the Rs 5 crore fine imposed on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living foundation by the National Green Tribunal to Jizya tax. Jizya was a tax levied on Hindus during the Mughal rule in India.

Sri Sri's Art of Living has been at loggerheads with the country's top green court for organising the three-day World Culture Festival on the floodplains of the Yamuna, from 11 March.

Also Read: Yamuna floodplain damage: Art of Living can pay Rs 5 cr fine tomorrow, says NGT

The VHP press statement released today, says: "Imposing a fine on Sri Sri without any fault of his reminds us of the Jizya tax during the Mughal era. How can the seculars tolerate an event that is being organised to showcase India's religious, cultural and spiritual heritage to the world."(sic) It adds that one of the reasons to hold the event was to raise awareness about the Yamuna.
Press release

Environmentalists have brought to the notice of the green Court that the massive construction spread over 1,000 acres will adversely impact the Yamuna ecosystem, which has already been battling severe pollution.

Allegations of selective environment activism

In the statement, Surendra Jain has been quoted as saying that the Yamuna Bank and Yamuna Khadar shelters "Bangladeshi infiltrators and illegal slums". Calling the Okhla Barrage a "mine of Muslim votebank", the VHP leader questioned whether the leather factories and slaughter houses lining the Yamuna bank were not polluting the river as well.

Also Read: PM will be at World Culture Festival, Art of Living won't pay Rs 5 crore NGT fine: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

In a bid to point out NGT's "selective environment activism", Jain dares members of the top green court to visit Jama Masjid and other Muslim dominated areas "without closing their eyes and ears" to assess how environment-friendly the areas are.

Counter allegations of Communalising an environmental issue'

This statement by the VHP comes days after Swami Omjee of the Hindu Maha Sabha had called environment activist Vimlendu Jha "a CIA agent, anti-national and a terrorist" as he had petitioned against the AOL event.

Pointing out a pattern to deliberately communalise an entirely environmental issue, Jha tells Catch:

"While speaking to Bhupendra Choubey, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar tried to give the whole issue a religious colour when he started talking about Batla House, unnecessarily. Starting from top spiritual leaders like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to Hindu Maha Sabha goons, everyone is trying to communalise a matter which is essentially an environmental issue. It has nothing to do with any political party or any religious group. This is just the fate of the Yamuna that we are discussing."

Also Read: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living will have to cough up much more than the Rs 5 crore fine

Earlier, in an interview, Sri Sri had said that he had caused no damage to the Yamuna and wouldn't pay the Rs 5 crore fine imposed by the NGT. He also said that he would prefer to go to jail if the Court directs him to do so. However, the Supreme Court has refused to hear a plea against the NGT ruling on the AOL event.
The NGT on Wednesday gave a go-ahead to the controversial event despite chiding the foundation for violating various environment clauses and not getting the required permissions. However, the green court has extended the deadline till tomorrow, the first day of the event.

About 35 lakh people from all across the world are expected to attend the event commemorating 35 years of AOL.

With inputs from Somi Das and Salma Rehman

Edited by Abha Srivastava

First published: 10 March 2016, 5:38 IST