The event is being held at a time when Karnataka has witnessed one of the worst assaults against women at a pub in Mangalore.
Bhanumathi Narasimhan is the director of AoL's Women and Child Welfare programmes. She is also the sister of AoL founder Sri Sri Ravishankar. In an interview with rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, Narasimhan speaks about the violence against women in Mangalore.
Do you think women's rights have improved in India?
It has definitely taken on a positive note. Now, women have woken up and are trying to revive our ancient culture where women were treated as devis and kumari poojas (honouring the girl child as a form of the Mother Divine). Many organisations have raised a voice against female foeticide, asserting the fact that the girl child is a boon, and not a bane to society.
Of course, a lot more needs to be done in this regard. But definitely it is a clear beginning and will take shape in reviving our traditional culture of hounoring women.
What is AoL doing for womens' rights?
As an outcome of the previous two conferences, many awareness camps about women's rights were conducted. Spiritual leaders from across India pledged to spread awareness on the malpractice of female foeticide at a conference organised by AoL. We encourage the education of the girl child through 86 free tribal and rural schools.
I feel that whatever counselling you do is not enough. Measures like education and empowerment are more effective. We have an organisation called VISTA (Value Integrated Services to All), which focuses on rural development and women empowerment. Through empowerment projects, we encourage women to play an active role in social development.
Empowerment according to me is not only economic independence; it also is instilling confidence and spiritual values.
There is much talk on discontinuing pub culture. What are your views on this?
Pub culture is new to me. Our generation had a different upbringing. I would say, this is Western culture and is not natural to us.
Whether it is a boy or a girl, drinking is not welcome. Nowadays youth are stressed because of environmental and peer pressure. This is escapism under the garb of relaxation and happiness.
Youth resort to such modes of escapism and later become their slaves. Youth love to be free. They don't understand that habits like drinking and smoking are addictions which result in bondage.
The only answer to this situation is proper spiritual education where you get higher pleasure through meditation. By adopting spiritual knowledge, you can control your mind. It helps you recognise your own power and makes you realise that external pleasures cannot give you inner joy.
You can be cool, be popular and have a healthy lifestyle as well. I am sure that present day youth are intelligent enough to opt for a healthy lifestyle of vegetarianism, yoga and meditation.
There is talk about moral policing. Do you think outfits like the Shri Ram Sene have the right to don the role of a moral policeman?
When we are responsible, we don't need moral policing. A responsible citizen will never allow himself to be policed. Moral policing can be argued as concern for youth. Yet, this concern must be expressed in a compassionate manner, by educating them.
Violence is not the answer. A wrong act can never be corrected through violent behaviour. Only love can bring in transformation. Every human being is divine. We have no right over another's life or lifestyle.
I would appeal to elders to respect youth and treat them as equals.
Yoga is considered to be an anushasan (discipline). When one follows proper yoga of the body and mind, self-discipline is inculcated. Yoga can open the doors of self-transformation. This is my belief and my experience.
What should be the role of parents?
Our tradition says: Prapte tu Shodhashe varshe, Putram mitram, Vada charet (Once a child is 16 years, treat him/her as a friend).
Be a friend to your child. Advise them. Keep a close watch on them. Take an interest in their lives. That's how you can become a part of their lives.
Image: Bhanumathi Narasimhan