New Delhi: Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Sunday said parties should not politicise events having a bearing on the country's reputation and suggested that the media has been "harsh" in its criticism of the World Cultural Festival organised on the Yamuna flood plain.
He claimed that his Foundation has already received invitation from Australia, Mexico and other nations for holding the next edition of the event.
"We need a certain maturity. I don't mind but I request all political parties. Whenever such a grand event is being organised, party politics should be kept aside.
"You should come together so that India's prestige on the world stage rises. It is not easy to organise an event of this magnitude.... It is a major thing... so that people from across the world can feel connected," the spiritual guru said.
"People from across the world are amazed. We got a letter from the Australian prime minister asking us to hold the event there. They are ready to give all the help we need, from Mexico.... The countries are keen to host this event. At the same time, the international media is asking why the Indian press is so harsh towards this festival. I smiled and said that I don't know," he said.
Asked about his reported remarks that "Jai Hind and Pakistan Zindabad should go together" after a Pakistani scholar's address at the event on Saturday, he said, "They said guruji said something. That's not the case. The imam always concludes his talk with Pakistan Zindabad. I said that yes you can say it and I say Jai Hind. So I said Jai Hind and he said Pakistan Zindabad.
"I said it could be a win-win situation for both the countries. Somewhere we need to connect. We need to come together and that's what is happening," he said.
Defending the organising of the festival on the flood plains of Yamuna, he said they would work for the rejuvenation of the river. Replying to a query related to his statement that he would not pay the Rs five crore fine imposed by National Green Tribunal, he said the NGT has made it clear that it was not a fine but compensation to rejuvenate the area.
The AOL founder said his organisation will come with up a concrete plan for conservation of Yamuna river.
"We had consulted a couple of environmentalists before the event and they had said there would be no damage to the flood plains if this event was held. Further, we will also consult some environmentalists and work on rejuvenation of Yamuna with a concrete plan of action for Yamuna," he said.
He said they had initially thought of holding the event in a stadium, but then the idea had to be dropped because of the magnitude of the programme.
"Any stadium would not have been able to accommodate these many artists and people," Ravi Shankar said as the three-day cultural extravaganza ended on Sunday.
He said over 172 dignitaries from across the globe had come for the event, which drew intense criticism and also litigation over allegations that it damaged the ecology of Yamuna flood plains.
Questions were also raised on deploying army personnel for its preparation and the traffic woes due to the massive event.