Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Thursday that he would go to jail instead of paying a Rs 5-crore fine ordered by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), even if the Supreme Court upheld NGT's order, over his three-day mega event on the Yamuna floodplains.
The NGT ruled on Wednesday that the World Culture Festival, organised by the Art of Living Foundation, would go on as planned after an initial fine of Rs 5 crore was paid by the organiser as compensation for damaging biodiversity at the floodplains of the river Yamuna.
The mega event has been riddled with controversies, including alleged ecological damage due to the event-related construction and the use of the Indian Army to construct pontoon bridges for the event.
Talking to news channel NDTV, Sri Sri flatly denied any tree around the selected venue had been felled. He claimed that the trees had only been pruned and all they had done was level the floodplain.
He also said that his organisation would happily participate in cleaning the Yamuna river but not as a result of any imposition.
The guru described the Central government and the APP government in Delhi as "intelligent" for supporting the event. He also pointed out that the Uttar Pradesh government had lent its support to the proposed festival.
Hitting out against allegations that the Art of Living’s plan to release 'enzymes' into 17 drains that flow into the Yamuna would be harmful, he said that such methods were being used in other counties and that opponents of the plan did not have sufficient scientific knowledge.
Sri Sri expressed his confidence in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attendance during the festival and claimed that people opposing it would soon see sense.
He also termed attempts to get the location of the event changed as "unreasonable" and said that in other countries people would have welcomed such an event.
Referring to the use of the army in the event-related construction, Sri Sri countered by asking that would the army not have been brought in for an event like the Kumbh Mela also.