So it turns out that the shot fired on the evening of May 30 near the ashram of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on the outskirts of Bangalore was, in fact, carefully aimed.
It’s just that it was aimed to scare away feral dogs which had been bothering farm animals, not to kill the Art of Living founder and revered guru.
Karnataka’s director general of police, Ajai Kumar Singh, said Saturday that the bullet that ultimately grazed an Art of Living devotee was fired by local farm owner, Mahadeva Prasad, who was fed up with stray dogs pestering his animals and intended to scare the canines away. He fired shots from his 0.32 caliber pistol, one of which traveled 2,500 feet, or just short of 800 yards, or almost half a mile before bumping into the devotee’s leg at a velocity too slow to cause serious injury.
It was a suitably odd conclusion to an episode in which no-one involved - save perhaps the Bangalore police – has come out shining. Many newspapers were too quick to hype a story before any confirmable facts were in. As a result, almost every salient fact they had initially was wrong.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram suggested publically that the shot had been fired as part of a dispute between two of the guru’s followers, which turns out to be not the case.
And Art of Living officials and Mr. Shankar face a number of awkward questions concerning their responses.
From the beginning, Art of Living helped propagate the idea that the bullet was aimed at the guru. It issued a statement May 30 entitled “statement regarding firing attempt on Sri Sri’s convoy.”
Its first line read: “An unidentified assailant shot at Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s convoy as he was leaving from a public Satsang at around 6:00 pm on Sunday in Bangalore. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was unhurt. The bullet missed Sri Sri but struck an Art of Living member’s thigh causing minor injury.”
The statement also included a generous sound bite from the guru: “Many people are suffering due to violence. We need to convey the message of peace and non-violence to every household by reinforcing the human values of compassion, friendliness and service.” The following day, Mr. Shankar, in an interview with NDTV, invited his attacker to come to his ashram, saying all was forgiven.
Overall, they created the strong impression, both directly and indirectly, that the guru’s life was in danger, something that must have been very alarming to his millions of followers worldwide.
The foundation has been quick to act when it feels it has been maligned. Later the same week, for instance, it expressed its displeasure with Mr. Chidambaram’s (false) suggestion that the incident stemmed from a dispute between two disciples. But it has been silent on clearing up other issues and contradictions that would be helpful to our complete understanding of what happened.
For instance, the May 30 statement said the bullet missed Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Undoubtedly true, since he was unharmed. Moreover, the police and Mr. Chidambaram say he had left the ashram about five minutes before the incident happened. So it would be helpful to know from Art of Living where the guru was precisely when the shot was fired and whether he was, in retrospect, ever in any danger?
Some news reports also suggested that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and others heard, even saw, the shot. It would helpful if the Art of Living could clarify whether or not this was true, considering the shot was fired from almost half a mile away five minutes after Mr. Shankar had departed the scene.
The foundation also could have clarified its May 30 statement as soon as it became clear that the statement was not accurate. So far, it hasn’t provided any guidance about why or how it reached the initial conclusion that Mr. Shankar was attacked. Nor has it made it clear subsequently that he was not attacked.
India Real Time has put these questions by email to the Art of Living foundation and we will share its comments when a response is received.
Mr. Shankar, though, seems to be eager to put the incident behind him. “It is a closed chapter and will be forgotten,” he said, according to the Times of India. The Hindustan Times also quoted him as saying, “I don’t want cheap publicity.”